Online Winnipeg atlas charts food deserts, ‘city-wide’ insecurity
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This article was published 04/02/2020 (1220 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Amid relatively wealthy areas in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, a swath of bright red signals the existence of a sizable food desert.
Despite a nearby community garden and some fairly wealthy households, the neighbourhood is among many in Winnipeg that has issues with food insecurity, according to a new food atlas launched Tuesday.
The atlas reflects Harvey Heather’s experience in the neighbourhood. Heather is the volunteer co-ordinator at Oak Table, a non-profit organization that provides healthy food to people in need out of River Avenue’s Augustine United Church.
“It’s safe to say that there are people all over the city that are dealing with this, even people who do have jobs and maybe having homes, are still struggling to make ends meet and have to look elsewhere — whether it’s Winnipeg Harvest or whether it’s some of the other food banks or lunch programs, like we have,” he said.
“I would say it’s city-wide, from what we see.”
The atlas, an interactive illustration of geographical overlap between low-income households, distance to a grocery store, and diabetes cases — among a multitude of other mapped-out data — is the result of two years’ work by University of Manitoba Prof. Joyce Slater, who teamed up with local organizations to create Winnipeg’s first food atlas.
Slater worked with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Food Council, Food Matters Manitoba, Winnipeg Harvest and her employer, the University of Manitoba’s department of food and human nutritional sciences to launch the interactive map, which became publicly available online Tuesday afternoon.
Food insecurity in Winnipeg, and health problems associated with it, have spread far beyond the city’s poorest neighbourhoods, the map shows.
There’s a widespread number of households in Winnipeg that are considered food insecure: they’re low-income and living more than 500 metres away from a full-service grocery store. Cases of diabetes affecting people 35 to 49 years old are also widespread — seriously affecting some of the most-affluent areas, as well as some of the least well-off neighbourhoods.
The map breaks down census and public-health data and displays it by neighbourhood — an intensely local approach Slater said she hopes can be used to influence policy decisions about everything from nutrition programs to public transportation to recreation centres to health-care spending.
“I hope that policy makers that are in these diverse sectors will see that’s economically and socially important to start preventing this, and think about what role they have. There’s no magic bullets here,” she said.
“We need big, big ideas for prevention that are scaled up, they’re not just for one small section of the population, and we need to think about how we’re going to change our food environment.”
Although it’s the first of its kind in Manitoba, the Winnipeg food atlas follows the example of municipal food maps that exist in larger cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver.
The map includes location details of farmers markets, Winnipeg Harvest food banks, community gardens, grocery stores, and newcomer food shops. A citizens advisory group tasked with developing food policies for the City of Winnipeg will be harvesting that data, and adding to it, said Jeanette Sivilay, co-ordinator of the Winnipeg Food Policy Council.
“It really helps to get people’s imagination going and start thinking about food as something that we plan for as a city, and something that’s important to think about from a city-planning process,” Sivilay said.
The map’s listing of community gardens is incomplete because it’s based on the city’s land asset data and doesn’t include gardens on private land. As the council looks to develop more community garden programs, it expects to expand on that data, Sivilay said, as well as data about grassroots food programs and smaller grocery store locations.
The interactive map is “really driving it home that we can think about food on a municipal level,” Sivilay said.
“So often, we don’t consider that because a lot of jurisdiction when it comes to food doesn’t rest with the municipality, but this is where we see the impact.”
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.