Sophia Bassett applied skills that she learned in the Everett Program at UC Santa Cruz when she worked with students in Watsonville, California to produce food access maps. Her update follows.

My partners in this digital mapping project are Community Agroecology Network (CAN), Mesa Verde Gardens, the Everett Program at UC Santa Cruz, and the Digital NEST. In 2015 CAN began Growing Justice, a new initiative that focuses on urban gardens, food justice, and community well-being in Watsonville and Pajaro, California; Mesa Verde Gardens works with low-income residents of Santa Cruz County to meet the immediate and basic need for food security by increasing their access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the creation of small organic gardens; the Everett Program teaches UC Santa Cruz students to use digital tools to advance social justice and promote sustainability; and Digital NEST provides youth and young adults ages 12-24 with free access to computers, software, Wi-Fi, and a full range of state-of-the-art digital tools.

Food insecurity is an economic and social condition wherein households do not have, or have limited access to, adequate food to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In 2011, in South Santa Cruz County, 32% of low-income individuals were food insecure. This same area is renowned for providing produce for the rest of the country and the world. Ironically, many of the same people who harvest our fruits and vegetables, don’t have access to healthy food themselves. Food access maps are one way to make data about food availability visually accessible. Specifically, participatory digital mapping can provide a means to visualize food access issues and the role of community gardens within the landscape. The participatory style and food access focus of the maps will support CAN and Mesa Verde’s research.

This past summer I engaged Watsonville students—from 8th grade through college age—in a participatory digital mapping project. In a three-day summer institute, I introduced six students to essential digital mapping elements and tools through Google My Maps. They worked specifically on food access maps. Th
ey learned how to collect original data using GPS phone apps and surveys done on ipads. They also learned how to upload the data and visualize it. The students were also able to compare their data to existing census data to understand the power of visually presenting information.

One student surveyed to find out what was more accessible, fruit markets, pizza, or fast food. Another compared the availablity of produce and fast food restaurants with an overlay of median income ($32,000). A third compared vegetable quality and prices in nearby markets to mean household income ($39,378.) for a specific area in Watsonville. Examples of their work are seen below.