Community food access and food security are meaningful public health indicators that play an integral role in overall nutrition health and wellbeing. Adequate food access is determined by the level of availability and affordability of healthy foods, combined with cultural appropriateness and community know-how of acquiring, preparing, and eating those foods. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other GIS-based organizations provide useful resources to assess degrees of food access at the local level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other state-level entities track public health nutrition indicators, such as fruit and vegetable consumption and prevalence of chronic disease. This type of information can be utilized by local planning or local health departments to facilitate and evaluate need and impact of local food strategies.
Tool Kits & Guidebooks
- Planning for food access and community-based food systems (Hodgson, 2012)
- Growing Urban Agriculture: Equitable Strategies and Policies for Improving Access to Healthy Food and Revitalizing Communities (Policy Link, 2012) 52 pages
- Dig, Eat, and Be Healthy: A guide to growing food on public property (Change Lab Solutions) 48 pages
Public Health Data Sources
PolicyMap: Create custom maps of your community to gain insights and identify areas of need.
United States Department of Agriculture
- Food Access Research Atlas: Provides an overview of food access indicators for low-income and other census tracts, provides food access data for populations within census tracts; and offers census-tract-level data on food access that can be downloaded for community planning or research purposes.
- Food Environment Atlas: Food environment provides statistics on food environment indicators to stimulate research on the determinants of food choices and diet quality and provides spatial overview of access healthy food and its success in doing so.
Florida Department of Health
- FLHealthCHARTS: Community Health Assessment Resource Tool Set. Provides state and county-level data on chronic diseases (such as obesity), health behavior, and diet.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Public use data files and tools. Allows you to search for causes of death, cancer statistics, and other public health data. See specifically:
Census Data (United States Census Bureau) https://data.census.gov/cedsci/
Bureau of Labor Statistics https://www.bls.gov/cps/
- Cohen, N. (2022). Roles of Cities in Creating Healthful Food Systems. Annual Review of Public Health, 43(1), 419–437. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-052220-021059
- Mui, Y., Khojasteh, M., Hodgson, K., & Raja, S. (2018). Rejoining the Planning and Public Health Fields. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(B), 73–93. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2018.08B.004
- Seligman, H. K., & Berkowitz, S. A. (2019). Aligning Programs and Policies to Support Food Security and Public Health Goals in the United States. Annual Review of Public Health, 40(1), 319–337. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-040218-044132
Organizations & Resources for Food Access and Public Health
- Food Research & Action Center: Advocacy organization that publishes white papers on food-related issues, primarily as they relate to limited resource populations, SNAP, the Farm Bill, WIC, Obesity, and others.
- Reinvestment Fund: A Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that provides research and funding for low-income community development with topic areas including food access.
- The Food Trust: An advocacy/research organization that focuses food access, nutrition education, and health equity.
- Policy Link: An organization with information, research, toolkits, etc. on policy. Has a special section on food systems.
- Healthy Food Access Portal: Valuable resource for researching food access. Provides maps/resources for your local area.
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—Healthy Food Access: Conducts research and provides grant programs for food access in low-income communities.
- Metrics for Healthy Communities: A site with logic models for planning and healthy food access, and includes outcomes and measures. Is supported by Robert Wood Johnson, et al.