Why Introduce a New Mapping Tool?

The Food Access Research Atlas is a mapping tool that allows users to investigate multiple indicators of food access, expanding upon what was previously known as the Food Desert Locator. A major feature of the new Atlas is that it allows users to view several additional measures of food access, as well as other important indicators of supermarket access. The Atlas also provides updated census-tract estimates of areas with food access limitations using more recent data and improved methods, and offers contextual information for all census tracts in the United States. 

In the new tool, updated estimates of food-desert census tracts—low-income census tracts where a substantial number or share of people are far from supermarkets—can be viewed and mapped. New additional measures of low-income and low-access census tracts are also estimated and mapped. Two of these new measures use alternative distance markers for assessing how far residents of the census tract are from the nearest supermarket. A third measure directly considers household vehicle availability, since access to a vehicle is an important factor for food access. In addition to these measures of low-income and low-access census tracts, contextual information, such as the share of people living in group quarters in the census tract and whether the tract is a low-income tract, can also be mapped. Each of these indicators is available for all census tracts in the United States, including tracts in Alaska and Hawaii.