Interactive Food Map
by the Food Justice and Sustainability Project

Developed by Anna-Liisa Aunio, this collaborative tool supports local organizations and neighbourhoods in Montreal in their efforts to create a more just, sustainable food system for all residents.

Words  

Joshua Neale

Geneviève Sicotte

Images

Food Justice and Sustainability Project

Why a Food Map?

We need information about our food environment to understand how we can change it. This map provides a basis for understanding food availability, accessibility, and quality in Montreal. For example, some areas have more food banks to address food insecurity. In addition, some areas qualify as food deserts, while others are “food swamps” (i.e. with an abundance of low-quality food). 

This project began in 2013 with a challenge from a local organization to understand their food environment.  With a desire to collaborate, this organization was unable to identify other community assets in their neighbourhood and thus unable to coordinate efforts. After researching at the community level and talking to many different organizations, we discovered that a comprehensive food map would be a useful coordinating tool for many local actors.

We started a class project to map out one neighbourhood for food resources. It proved so useful that eventually, this initiative grew and transformed into a publicly subsidized research project that encompasses the entire island of Montreal.
 

What is on the Food Map?

The Map provides interactive information regarding food accessibility and availability for local communities and individuals. It comprises community-based assets and commercial locations: grocery stores, public markets, food banks, restaurants, food justice organizations or community kitchens.

 

To identify community-based assets that would appear on the map, we held round tables with stakeholders and we talked directly with the people on the ground who would benefit from such a map.

For the commercial locations, we hoped to use the Montreal permit data but found out that it was out of date and incomplete. External data gathered by the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation (MAPAQ) was used to identify locations that require food permits.

Generating and compiling those different databases resulted in around 14 000 points on the map.

How does the Map work?

When selecting a point on the map, the user can see information about food resources. Various data such as telephone number, website, address and opening hours are listed. This information helps individuals make informed decisions regarding their food choices and availability. It can also improve the coordination between community organizations.

 

Since our project is designed to highlight community-based assets, the default setting of the map provides data about these. The commercial data are being omitted, yet still selectable and visible when selected by the legend.

 

The widget on the right is dynamic and the numbers will change depending on the extent of the map that is viewed.

 

Should users also be interested in searching based on their location, they can use the search feature on the bottom of the page. 

 

The second version of the map will be online soon.

In the meantime, you can consult the first generation map.

To Be Continued...

We have had countless research assistants, volunteers, and community engagements that have been ongoing to help develop the map to the point where it is today.

 

To ensure longevity for the data and map utility after our project comes to an end, we collaborate with various community organizations and municipalities, so they will be in charge of validating and updating the data about their neighbourhood in the future.

Anna-Liisa Aunio is currently the Principal Investigator for the Food Justice and Sustainability Hub at Dawson College, where she teaches sociology and environmental studies. Over the past several years, her research focuses on understanding the sociological drivers of environmental issues, particularly in relation to climate change and food systems. Her PhD focused on the role of policy networks in shaping the global environmental agenda. Anna-Liisa has also worked closely with the student community and faculty in the development of rooftop gardens on campus and pedagogical material.

Hugo Martorell is the research coordinator of the Food Justice and Sustainability Hub at Dawson College. He is an advocate, researcher and facilitator who is passionate about food security, healthy food and sustainable food systems. Since co-founding Justice alimentaire Montréal in 2013, Hugo has been exploring opportunities to create community-campus collaboration to address food provisioning and food planning issues. Hugo has completed his masters degree at Concordia University, where he studied the history of food politics, policy and planning in Montreal, and  has worked with a number of organizations on food security and agro-ecology at the national level (Food Secure Canada, USC Canada, FLEdGE).

Joshua Neale is a GIS specialist who has worked principally on manipulating the data for the Food Justice Project and visualizing it through various cartographic means. Joshua is a graduate from Concordia University with a Specialization in Environmental Science (B.Sc) and has a passion for big data and it’s utility for a sustainable future.