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MAPC Partners with Tufts University on Food Access Mapping

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Staff from MAPC’s Public Health and Data Services departments partnered with students from Tufts University this spring to analyze access to healthy food across Massachusetts. Food access is a fundamental element to healthy neighborhoods. Where communities face barriers to getting their grocery needs met, people are less healthy, and obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related illnesses are more prevalent. Where individuals have fewer such barriers, the community tends to be healthier.

This analysis ranks food store types and farmers markets, and uses walksheds of ¼ and ½ mile, and drivesheds of 1 to 5 miles to arrive at a food access score for Massachusetts block groups. (The map above shows the 1 mile driveshed). Demographic characteristics including income, race, income, age, public assistance, and vehicle access were then compared with the food access scores to evaluate patterns of food access by certain populations.

This project builds on MAPC’s leadership work on the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan, and advances the Plan’s recommendation to ‘support the creation and use of community “scorecards” to assess the accessibility of healthy and local food within one or more municipalities or region.’ The maps offer a nuanced representation of food access statewide and on municipal levels that can inform policy and programmatic decision making to improve food access.

The MAPC project team is reviewing the findings, evaluating the study limitations, and exploring opportunities for further application of the analysis.

The methodology for the analysis was developed by MAPC staff members Heidi Stucker, Eliza Wallace, Jessie Partridge, Tim Reardon, and Manisha Bewtra in collaboration Tufts Urban And Environmental Policy and Planning graduate students Jamie Fanous, Noah Habeeb, Caitlin Matthews, and Lexie Raczka.

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For more information on the Food Access Index Score, reach out to Heidi Stucker hstucker@mapc.org