USING GIS MAPPING AS AN EDUCATIONAL TOOL TO MOBILIZE LOW-INCOME URBAN RESIDENTS TO ALLEVIATE LOCAL FOOD INSECURITY: A CASE STUDY
In Jersey City, food insecurity is a global issue of current local focus where GIS mapping serves as an educational health communication tool to spur education and advocacy efforts among residents. Jersey City’s Department of Health and Human Services (JCDHHS) and undergraduate community health students from New Jersey City University implemented “Cooking Matters”, a program designed to provide educational grocery store tours to low income residents to increase access to healthy foods. The students employed GIS mapping to identify correlations between residents’ levels of economic prosperity and local food distribution businesses. The maps evidenced that poorer neighborhoods have limited access to supermarkets (and wider healthy food options) and more access to fast food establishments in terms of distance. The maps were used aside other educational interventions (brochures and games) to market “Cooking Matters” at community events. The intended target population was more receptive to the GIS maps to learn about the program as opposed to the other forms of education.
Because the GIS maps are compatible with various literacy levels, more diverse and underserved communities can utilize maps for learning due to the maps’ capacity for visual imagery that does not conflict with cultural and language barriers. In addition to alleviating programmatic concerns with delivering multi-culturally competent materials, using mapping as health risk assessments can be an effective technique in facilitating interest, dialogue, and future participation in the “Cooking Matters” program intrapersonally. The local government intends to use NJCU community health students’ mapping capabilities to educate and mobilize more residents in similar programs to address health disparities to locals for better overall health outcomes.