Food Mapping: Sparking ideas for change

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In the fall of 2013 the Our Food Project ran 5 food mapping workshops with community partners. The purpose of these workshops is to create a space to hear community members voices and diverse experiences. The physical map provides an interactive focal point and basis for deeper discussion into food access.

The workshops ran for 2 hours. We picked times and places that were convenient for community members and sent out communications such as fliers and posters that would draw a diverse range of folks. Here are some notes about how the workshops went in case you want to run your own!

Day Flow:

1. Introduction to the Our Food Project and the context for the community mapping. In our case, we talk about the various levels of engagement we have with each community.

Poster Size Infographic Team Structure2. We put giant maps of the city on the walls and got folks to place stickers on the places where they get food, giving a few examples of the food they get there.

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3. Go-round: then we went around the circle and each person shared where they put their dots and what food they got there. We asked clarifying questions and many new ideas came out at this point that were added to the map as we went.

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4. Barriers and Supports: We then put two posters on the wall – one with images of typical barriers to food access and one with typical supports (money, transportation, time, knowledge/skills, social supports, growing spaces). We asked everyone to use dots to vote for which effected them the most on each poster. We then had a group discussion and added further to the posters. Here are two examples:

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5. Dream Big: Probably the most important activity was a visioning exercise asking the question of “What would you like to see in terms of food in your community?” The rich conversation was made possible because of the activities that came before, setting the context to make change. This sparked great ideas and also made some things immediately possible, because we had service providers and project staff in the room that were able to design resources to support the dreams.

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6. Feedback and Evaluation: Before leaving we asked participants what they thought about the food mapping experience. This is important so that we are always learning about how to do workshops well and what impact this kind of engagement has for participants.

We used food mapping as part of our baseline survey for the Our Food Project. Meaning that we documented where folks get their food, what barriers and supports exist and what key opportunities there are to move forward (visioning). These results will be shared back with the community to spark further dialogue. We will do food mapping again near the end of this project (Fall 2016) and compare to see any shifts in community context.

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Overall Food Mapping is an engagement activity that has been used in many many different ways by different projects and groups. Food Matters Manitoba has created a great toolkit. I also found a cool food web mapping toolkit that’s more extensive in terms of mapping producers, distributors and consumers. A simple google search will bring up tons more examples for you to peruse.

The most important part for me is really listening to people’s stories and having fun!

Miranda Cobb, Community Food Researcher for the Our Food Project, Halifax, NS, Canada – miranda(at)ecologyaction.ca

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One thought on “Food Mapping: Sparking ideas for change

  1. Pingback: Our Food: Connecting in Cape Breton | Adventures in Local Food

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