Civic Tech Project Maps Out North Carolina Food Sources

A Charlotte nonprofit is working on creating a Web tool that will map all food sources in a multicounty region, hoping to create a resource for locating local markets, community gardens, farms and more.

by Rebecca Sitzes, Gaston Gazette / November 26, 2019
Early results show Fresh EBT helps food stamp recipients stretch their benefits further and eat healthier. (Shutterstock)

(TNS) — A Charlotte, N.C., non-profit is working on creating a web tool that will map all food sources in a multi-county region.

Cleveland County has been asked to participate in the project, started by Rivendell Farms, and the Cleveland County Cooperative Extension is helping collect information on local markets, community gardens, farms and other food growers.

"We're not a working farm as the name might lead you to believe, but we're a nonprofit organization that's based out of UNC Charlotte," said Erin Hostetler, program coordinator. "We're a team of four and we all have agricultural or environmental backgrounds and one of our main projects is creating a food system map of the Charlotte region."

Hostetler said the team is collecting information across 12 North Carolina counties and four South Carolina.

"Really the goal of the project is to be able to meet people, general consumers, where they are and try to connect them to the food they're looking for," she said. "That could range from people looking to support local farmers, going to farmers markets to joining a community garden or finding a volunteer opportunity in their communities or maybe they want to go out and have dinner at a restaurant that is a locally sourced farm to table restaurant."

She said it will include food pantries and retailers that accept SNAP and WIC benefits.

Rivendell Farms is not only locating food sources for people who need it, but also how they can reach these places. Transportation routes will be included on the map.

Hostetler said the project has received a lot of support from the community.

"In all of the conversations we've had, most of them end with 'how can we support you, our communities need this,'" she said. "That's what keeps us going, is the fact that we get that kind of response and people see the value of having something like this."

They intend to use ArcGIS, an analytic and mapping tool, as their technology platform.

She said it's not an app, but something people can use if they have an internet connection.

A simple Google search will direct users to the map as one of the top search results.

Hostetler said it's a mobile friendly, robust tool that can handle a lot of information and loads fairly quickly.

She said the map will display different counties and points and people can click on those points to find out more details on a specific location.

Rivendell plans to launch the map in the spring.

"Once we launch were going to dig much deeper into individual counties," Hostetler said. "For Cleveland County we have around 50 data points, from farms to where community gardens are, to pantries, but we recognize that there's probably more we could be including, so once we launch, we'll make a more kind of dedicated effort within each county to really build that out."

Right now, the working title is the Charlotte Regional Mapping Project, but they are still working on a title.

"As people have any thoughts on what we should be including, we're always looking for ideas and suggestions and input from the community," she said.

She said they have a couple of steady funding sources but are looking for additional support.

©2019 Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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