Lost in the Food Desert 2

USDA has updated their food desert map, the one that shows where people live who don’t have access to transport yet don’t have nearby supermarkets. It’s a much finer grain than the first one, and it fixes most of the errors I found two years ago— US military bases are no longer automatically deserts.

With all the changes, you can get a much clearer picture of how poverty is concentrated in pockets in this country. Washington, DC, is infamous for the fact that you only have to travel a few blocks from Capitol Hill to be in what looks like a third world country, to be where it’s possible to get mugged while trying to hold up a liquor store. The map there no longer shows all of NE as a food desert, just the patches there, and in the areas of MD between NE and the Beltway.

Let me speculate and say I think one reason we don’t provide more social services in this country is that poverty is pushed aside, into little refugia, as if protecting the last of the Neanderthals. You don’t see it, so you don’t think about it, except on an intellectual basis, and most Americans are very stingy when it comes to supporting intellectual causes.

The data itself looks better, but the user interface is a little ugly. You can’t doubleclick to zoom in, you have to drag the map center to where you want to be, and then click on the zoom tool. Unfortunately, the map wants to drift along with your pointer as to move towards the tool. In addition, while it’s nice that clicking on a tract brings up a data window, clicking on the (x) for that data window doesn’t make it go away, at least not in Firefox or Opera.

They say you shouldn’t buy a software product with a version number lower than 3.0, and it looks like that’s the case here.


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