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USDA’s food atlas provides insight to health and habits

Posted 4/5/2010

The United States Department of Agriculture’s “Your Food Environment Atlas,” an online resource that analyzes the diets, spending habits and health of consumers nationwide, has been published on eXtension.org.

The Web site,www.eXtension.org, is an interactive learning environment delivering information from Cooperative Extension experts from all over the United States. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension experts contribute articles to the site and participate in various "communities of practice," sharing learning materials and resources with colleagues around the country.

The atlas provides information regarding local communities throughout the country. The atlas allows users to study various food environment factors, including store and restaurant proximity, food prices and nutritional assistance programs. Using this data, researchers can understand the characteristics of individual communities and see how these characteristics are affected by environmental factors.

Additionally, the atlas provides information regarding human health in regards to food environment factors. Adult obesity and diabetes levels, as well as recreational and activity factors, are all searchable features on the database. By analyzing environmental factors alongside health statistics, policymakers can better decide what steps to take in improving community health.

Using this resource, visitors can gain insight to Nevada’s health statistics as a whole, and by individual regions. According to the food atlas, Nevada residents consume between 49 and 60 gallons of soft drinks per capita, which falls below the national average. Nevadans also have a lower adult diabetes rate than most other states. Additionally, users can explore many other factors about Nevada’s dietary habits, including the amount of meals prepared at home, fast-food expenditures per capita and levels of physical activity.

This tool provides county statistics on a wide variety of health indicators such as access and proximity to grocery stores, availability of food stores, food eaten at home, food insecurity, food prices, food taxes, health, physical activity, and several others. Check out this informative, interactive map:

The atlas was designed gathering information from agencies nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided the statistics on obesity and diabetes, the National Cancer Institute provided indicators on physical activity and recreation centers; USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service provided indicators on farmers’ markets; USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service provided information on State-level food and nutrition assistance program participation rates; and the National Farm-to-School Network provided statistics on farm-to-school programs.

To view, “Your Food Environment Atlas,” or for more information regarding the database, visit the USDA’s web site at http://maps.ers.usda.gov/FoodAtlas/ or visit eXtension online at http://www.extension.org/pages/Your_Food_Environment_Atlas.

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