Mapping Outreach Services for Those in Need

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By Christina DeBlasio

Now finding a foodbank, shelter, counseling or child-care services are as easy as browsing for other nearby attractions on your smartphone.

Recently, Laura Greenfield, a junior at the University of Kentucky, delighted her professors and the GIS world alike when she created the prototype for a location-based app that serves primarily women who are seeking local services. Greenfield created this app to be accessed by phone or the internet, in conjunction with the Step-by-Step program. Step-by-Step is a mentoring program geared toward young mothers, aged 14 to 24, who are food insecure, homeless, in need of counseling, or seeking child-care services while they work.

The app illustrates how GIS technology is continuing to grow ever-more publically minded, with many new interactive, online GIS tools focusing on working with communities and the marginalized groups within those communities. Greenfield was able to connect with Step-by-Step, access pertinent data, and produce the interactive map because of a program introduced at the University of Kentucky in 2010. Called Mapshop, the program’s goal is to facilitate communication between community organizations and students. Mapshop allows students to help their community and earn valuable GIS experience while simultaneously helping non-profit organizations without cost to such organizations.

Interactive and publically-minded maps are springing up all over the United States. In Washington, DC, the Capital Area Food Bank has created a map that overlaid food insecure locations with pounds of distributed food to analyze where hot spots in the data occurred. Those hot spots indicated locations where current food distributions were not accurately matched up with food need. The interactive map has allowed the Capital Food Banks to redirect food distributions to ensure that all food insecure areas are receiving aid.

The ability of GIS mapping software to analyze spatial locations of marginalized communities and in-need individuals and match them with non-profit organizations illustrates the importance and viability of GIS to the future of our country. Interactive GIS tools are becoming increasingly important to serving in-need communities. Furthermore, the simplification of GIS technology is allowing students, like Greenfield, to serve their communities while in school. The demand for location based, interactive, and user friendly maps will likely only continue to rise in the not-for-profit sector.

To browse the map, visit Greenfield’s webpage: http://lfgreenfield.github.io/step-by-step/


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McColl, Sarah. “Mapping a New Way to Food Justice with a New Generation of Cartographers”. Takeapart.com. 1 October 2015. Web. Accessed 5 Dec 2015.

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