NC Budget and Tax Center

Data tools for policymaking: USDA Food Atlas

As I wrote about last week, it is increasingly urgent that emphasis be put on facts as the foundation of policymaking. And there are some great data tools out there to support identification of the issues facing North Carolina’s communities and the most effective solutions.

One such tool is the USDA Food Atlas which provides local data on various measures of food access, security and production. Food insecurity is increasingly considered in this season where so many will focus on preparing holiday meals and too many will continue to struggle to put food on the table.

The Food Atlas provides a comprehensive look at the various dimensions that contribute to food insecurity and nutrition from the location of grocery stores to fast food restaurants to the production of food and access to fresh, local produce.

Here are a few to ponder as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday.

  • Nearly 350 neighborhoods in NC are food deserts meaning that the places to buy food are far from residents creating barriers to access.
  • There are 16 counties in NC that have 3 or more Farmers Markets
  • Only all of the Farmer’s Markets in Cleveland, Greene, Lincoln, and Onslow counties accept SNAP, all other counties have not achieved 100 percent acceptance of SNAP at Farmer’s Markets
  • Only seven counties had Farm to School programs in 2009 according to the Atlas. Those counties are primarily out west.
  • From 2007 to 2011, there has been an explosion of fast food restaurants in the Eastern region of the state. Tyrell, Hyde and Jones counties saw a 100 percent increase in the number of fast food restaurants.

Check out more data for your county here.

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