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map of the locations of major grocery stores in Windsor.Geographic Information Systems technology maps the locations of major grocery stores in Windsor.

Display illustrates Windsor food deserts

Are there places in Windsor where residents have little access to healthy foods?

Carina Luo, a geospatial data analyst at the Academic Data Centre, has produced a series of maps showing the city’s food deserts—areas without large grocery stores within convenient travelling distance.

“Residents living in these food deserts, especially elderly people or those with low-income who often lack a vehicle or depend on public transportation, tend to consume less nutritious, processed foods readily available at corner stores and fast-food restaurants,” Luo says. “This will inevitably impact their dietary choices and, ultimately, increase their likelihood of developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other diet-related health problems.”

Her work will be displayed in the lobby of the Leddy Library for two weeks starting today in an exhibit celebrating Geographic Information Systems in advance of GIS Day, November 20.

Luo plotted the locations of Windsor’s supermarkets and calculated each neighbourhood’s access to the stores using the actual street network. She used census information to identify high-need neighbourhoods where residents are most vulnerable to limited access to nutritious foods—low-income, senior, visible minority and those without a vehicle. Through this approach, she identified several potential food deserts: socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods with little or no access to large supermarkets.

Visitors will learn about the geospatial resources and technologies used to create the maps and to understand how GIS can enhance understanding of the interplay between human behaviours and their environments.