Mapping the USA’s food

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has introduced the Food Environment Atlas, a new web-based data visualization tool. The atlas is an interactive online tool that allows people to visualize various food related information at the USA county level. For example the map below:


Pounds per capita of meat and poultry


Ratio per capita of fruit and vegtables consumed vs. processed food

Nicola Twilley on Edible Geography comments on the Food Environment Atlas in the United States of Food:

The Atlas currently maps ninety food environment indicators, divided into three broad categories. “Food Choices” includes both measurements of food access and consumption, from the number of supermarkets per 1000 people to restaurant expenditures per capita. “Health and Well-Being” tracks dietary outcomes, such as hunger, diabetes, and obesity. “Community Characteristics” adds an extra level of demographic data, including income levels and metro/non-metro status.

… some food patterns simply benefit from a more nuanced analysis than the Food Environment Atlas is able to provide. Mapping cupcake bakeries as a marker of gentrification, or the relative spiciness of curries in neighbourhoods of first- and second-generation immigrants, for example, provides fascinating insights on a finer-grained, street-by-street basis than is possible in the county- and state-sized blocks of the USDA data sets.

Finally, the Atlas is glitchy and sort of ugly, and the advanced search function, which is supposed to enable queries that use multiple indicators, is extremely un-user-friendly.

This post by WorldChanging Canada writer Garry Peterson was originally published on Resilience Science.


I think it is very difficult to make an Atlas that will satisfy the users on all counts. We have to appreciate the efforts of USDA. Thanks!

Posted by: Prakash on May 14, 2010 9:13 AM

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