Mapping Scarcity in a Land of Plenty
Category: The Big Picture

Mapping Scarcity in a Land of Plenty

This article first appeared in Edible Finger Lakes in 2012:

The Finger Lakes region produces an amazing array and quantity of food on more than 2 million acres of farmland. Common staples, cutting-edge varietals and rediscovered heirlooms sprout from the landscape. With so much abundant fresh local produce, some might assume that we all enjoy full bellies and excellent health.

But that’s not necessarily the case. How healthy food gets from the field to the table—or doesn’t—is a complicated issue. Our agricultural bounty is just one piece of the puzzle.

What is a healthy diet? Do we have an accessible supply of healthy foods here? Can we afford those foods? Do we buy them?

A new interactive online map offers a glimpse into these questions and their possible answers. In early 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture released the Food Environment Atlas (, which includes nearly 100 statistical measures at the county level, across the entire nation. The map illustrates everything from number of farmers’ markets to gallons of soda consumed. Unveiled as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, the map is intended to stimulate research on food choices and diet and to offer a geographic look at a community’s ability to access healthy food.

Here in the Finger Lakes, a picture of our food landscape emerges from the data, but making sense of the nuances is a long-term project. Since the map was just published, researchers, policymakers, activists and others are just beginning to mine its potential. <read the entire article here at Edible Finger Lakes:>


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