Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s Office of Food Access has created food resource maps in six languages for each of the city’s neighborhoods with a goal of improving the availability to healthy eating options for all residents.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association highlighted the maps in a recent article in their “Community Corner” newsletter that promotes best practices and examples that other cities and towns can follow. The Healthy Aging Collaborative is recognizing the Boston Food Access Maps as a best practice specifically for Age-Friendly Communities.
These resources list senior meal sites, food pantries, SNAP assistance sites, farmer’s markets and affordable fruit and vegetable sources.
Below is an excerpt from the MMA article with more background on the Food Resource Maps:
Elizabeth Miller, a food security fellow with the Mayor’s Office of Food Access, said the idea for the maps began with staff at community health centers, who alerted the mayor’s office that people were seeking food assistance from the centers and needed immediate referrals.
“We were targeting people kind of at a chronic emergency stage, consistently needing more food, or [those who] recently lost their job and suddenly don’t have enough money to buy food,” Miller said.
Because of that, the Mayor’s Office of Food Access worked with the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology and its Public Health Commission to identify food options that are either low-cost or free, with the exception of farmers markets, which were included only if they accepted SNAP and HIP benefits.
The city opted for paper maps because many lower-income households and homeless individuals lack access to a computer.
Miller said the maps also address, to an extent, the problem of “food deserts,” where a neighborhood lacks access to fresh, affordable and nutritious food as opposed to cheaper and less healthful processed foods.
“A lot of food pantries have limited fresh produce available,” Miller noted. “The [map’s] resources are all combined to support the needs of individuals living in areas where [healthy food choices] are limited.”