In fall of 2014 the SWAG course Gender, Land, and Food Movement taught by Professor Lisa Armstrong will integrate mapping into its coursework, yet again, this time moving to an online platform. Over the past seven years the class has developed a relationship with an interlinked web of community organizations in the Mason Square area of Springfield, MA. These community organizations exchange knowledge and support with the class to build and now expand the Mason Square Farmers Market in an area that is understood to be a food desert. The class has used GIS (geographic information systems) in previous years to explore the spatial relationships between demographic and food access data in Springfield.
This year, through the use of an online mapping platform, or “story map”, the students will tell the spatial narrative of the area’s history and culture in relation to the farmers market. The class hopes to challenge the USDA’s definition of food desert and redefine the term and its parameters based on a combination of GIS data analysis and community input. The interactive map product will serve to tell the story of the community as it relates to food access issues including the theoretical conclusions found in the data analysis.
As the year progresses the class plans to share the project’s development with the Smith Community.