Welcome to the Local Foodshed Mapping Tool main Page! This instrument is the product of a larger USDA CSREES funded project entitled "Mapping local food systems potential in New York State." This project, hereafter referred to as the "Mapping Local Food Systems Project." investigated the capacity of agricultural land in New York State to meet the food needs of the state's population centers. The Local Foodshed Mapping Tool is an internet map server (IMS) that provides a means for interactively exploring results from this study.
Learn more about the project (Recommended for first time users).
- Project overview
- What is a foodshed?
- What is an IMS?
- How were foodsheds mapped?
- What can the user do?
- How does the Foodshed IMS work?
- What do the results mean?
- How do you use the tool?
- Glossary of terms
The Mapping Local Food Systems Project was initiated to better understand the capacity for New York State to supply its own food needs. To this end, the goal of this research has been to develop models for evaluating the food production potential of the state’s agricultural land relative to the food needs of its population. To achieve this goal, we have created a collection of models that use spreadsheet-based approaches, geographic information systems, and linear optimization to answer questions about the capacity of land to meet human nutritional needs. These tools have been applied in the context of New York State but are designed to be adaptable to other geographic areas.
The Local Foodshed Mapping Tool provides an interface for exploring some of the results of this work. Brief descriptions of key concepts and the basic methodology are provided below. For more detailed descriptions, please see the materials in the publications list.
What is a "foodshed"?
Though it may be unfamiliar, the term "foodshed" was used almost 80 years ago in a book entitled How Great Cities Are Fed (Hedden, 1929) to describe the flow of food from producer to consumer. Seven decades later, the term was used to describe a food system that connected local producers with local consumers (Kloppenburg et al., 1996). In this project, the general definition of a foodshed is a geographic area that supplies a population center with food. However, the Mapping Local Food Systems Project focused specifically on potential local foodsheds, areas of nearby land that could theoretically provide part or all of a city's food needs (Peters, 2007).
What is an IMS?
An Internet Map Server (IMS) is a tool that enables a person to create maps of geographic data through a web browser. Although the IMS relies on geographic information system (GIS) software to run the application, the user does not need any special software or technical knowledge of GIS. All that is required is access to and ability to use web browsing software.
How were foodsheds mapped?
The Mapping Local Food Systems Project did not address where New York State population centers actually obtain their food. Rather, the research examined the capacity for the state to provide more of its own food needs based on the quality, quantity, and location of its agricultural land relative to the geographic distribution of the human population.
To accomplish this task, a combination of geographic information system (GIS) and optimization modeling techniques were used. A simplified schematic of the methodology is shown in Figure 1. Existing geographic data on soils, land cover, urban areas, and population were integrated with a sub-model that estimated land requirements of the human diet. Together, these data were used to characterize the food production potential of the state's land base, divided into production zones, and the food needs of its people, clustered in population centers. This information was fed into an optimization model to determine how much food each population center would receive from each production zone in order to transport food the minimum number of food miles. The output from this model, a foodshed matrix, provides the data used to map potential local foodsheds for New York State population centers.
For more details on how the model works, please see the materials in the list of publications.
Figure 1. Schematic of the foodshed model design.
What can the user do?
Users can create foodshed maps for 125 New York State population centers. Two types of mapping features are available. One feature produces a map of the food production potential allocated to a single population center by the foodshed model. In this map, production zones within the foodshed are shaded according to the amount of food they supplied to the population center in question. The second feature creates a map of the foodshed boundaries of up to three population centers. This map shows the area included in the foodshed, but not the food contribution of each production zone.
A variety of tools are available to change the map view and to include additional data layers. The mapping toolbar allows users to zoom into areas of interest, pan the screen, measure distances, and select items in the map. The dropdown menu of data layers enables users to select from a variety of spatial data layers that may be of interest, such as land cover or county boundaries. When users are satisfied with the map view, they can print a copy of the map using the print function on the mapping toolbar.
In addition to these mapping features, the IMS reports back the estimated amount of food that could be provided to the population center relative to its total needs and the average distance that food would travel.
How does the Foodshed IMS work?
The Foodshed IMS gives users access to results from the analyses performed in the Mapping Local Food Systems Project. Users cannot re-run the analyses performed in the project. Rather, the IMS provides a user-friendly interface for querying the data in the foodshed matrix referenced in Figure 1. The functions programmed into the IMS both query and summarize the data, enabling the user to easily create foodshed maps and produce summary statistics for individual New York State population centers.
What do the results mean?
The Mapping Local Food Systems Project analyzed the potential for the state's agricultural land to meet the food needs of its population. The project did not investigate the actual sources of food for New York State population centers. To the extent possible with the available data, the model estimated the capacity of the area currently in agricultural land cover to supply the food needs of population centers based on the productivity of underlying soils and contemporary crop yields. Thus, the foodshed maps show geographic areas that could theoretically be exploited to provide some or all of the food needs of individual population centers.
In addition, a few additional points must be explained to understand the IMS output:
Like most simulation models, the foodshed model is capable of examining different scenarios. At present, Foodshed IMS gives access to the results of only the baseline scenario run in the Mapping Local Food Systems Project analysis. This scenario assumes that all agricultural land cover could potentially be used to provide New York State food needs. Data from additional scenarios may be added in the future.
To learn more about the model assumptions, methodology, and interpretation of results, please see the materials shown in the publication list.
How to use the Foodshed IMS
1) Select the foodshed of interest using the dropdown menus under the "View Foodshed" heading. Only one foodshed for a single population center, either the cropland or grassland land portion, may be displayed at a time.
2) Add boundaries for up to three additional foodsheds using the dropdown menus under the heading "Map foodshed boundaries."
3) View the output. Use the functions available in the toolbar above the map display to focus on foodshed(s) of interest.
4) Check the box to the right of the map area to see data on how much food was provided to the population center, the size of the potential local foodshed, and how far the food would travel within this foodshed.
5) Use the "Layers" button to add or drop data layers from the map.
6) Print your map using the print button on the mapping toolbar.
Human Nutritional Equivalents: The amount of food needed to meet all nutritional requirements for the average New Yorker for one year. According to the diet used in our foodshed model, one HNE weighs 2,750 lbs, provides 2,300 kcal/day, and contains representatives from all major food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, added fats, and sweeteners. The nutritional requirements for the "average" person were determined based on recommended intake for different age/gender groups and the population demographics of New York State.
Population centers: In the foodshed model, a population center is an urbanized area or urban cluster as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. The model assumes that rural residents will obtain their food from the nearest population center.
Production zones: For the purposes of the model, the land area of New York State needed to be divided into discrete units. These units, called production zones, are 5 by 5km in area and have an estimated capacity for producing food based on the amount of agricultural land they encompass and the productivity of the underlying soils.