Location: Harrisonburg, VA | Client: Virginia Cooperative Extension | Project Date: May 2014 – June 2017
Links and Resources
In Food Deserts in Virginia, a report released by Virginia State University in 2014, 18.4% of Harrisonburg residents were considered ‘food insecure’. However, Rockingham County, which surrounds the City of Harrisonburg, has come to be known for its poultry, dairy, and beef production. Despite the region’s legacy of abundance and agricultural productivity, many of Harrisonburg’s residents struggle to access fresh, affordable and culturally appropriate foods. In response to the report, Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), the state’s agricultural research and education agency, wanted to better understand the conditions, challenges and opportunities facing Harrisonburg residents.
VCE developed a comprehensive food equity assessment that included a consumer survey, food system stakeholder interviews, listening groups and data analysis. Once all the information had been collected, VCE enlisted Skeo to analyze the data and develop a report. The report highlights food equity gaps, challenges, needs and opportunities through a series of graphics and maps. Based on the assessment findings, the report gives five recommendations to improve food equity conditions in Harrisonburg.
The Food Equity Assessment highlights the juxtaposition between the County’s agricultural productivity, the City’s reputation as a local foods leader and the prevalence of food insecurity. Through GIS mapping and data analysis, six food equity zones were identified as priority areas for future projects. The six zones were based on factors such as prevalence of high to medium density housing, low-income residents, distance from a grocery store, sidewalk access and access to land for gardening. The report outlines five recommendations to improve food equity: increase food retail spaces in food equity zones, provide land for home and small-scale urban farming enterprises, build capacity for urban and rural food and farming enterprises, educate the Harrisonburg community on food equity issues and develop a Harrisonburg Food Equity Council.