Saturday, March 12, 2011

Food Environment Maps: The USDA says, "Let's Eat!"

Food and Mapping make a healthy diet and the USDA's Food Environment Atlas - the barely year-old online tool, which measures a community’s food-choice landscape has just been supersized. The update was launch in February and increases its food environment factors like availability and type of restaurants and food stores, food prices, socioeconomic characteristics, and health outcomes from 90 to 168. The data is downloadable as Excel files, and are arranged alphabetically, first by state and then by county. State and county FIPS codes are provided. The county list is from the 2000 census.

These data are a trove generating nearly limitless question-posing and question-answering possibilities about community and environmental health, economic development, land and city planning, business placement, and education outreach.

Components measure change over time, and several indicators that will make the Atlas more useful in gauging residents’ food accessibility in rural communities - regions more likely than urban to suffer from obesity - nicely complementing First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity.

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