DataByte: Using Social Media Platforms for Social Inquiry

The social media phenomena that has bubbled and blossomed in the past few years has created an unprecedented influence in how we learn about new things, how we understand situations and people, and what we say about other people. With almost 75% of internet using adults connected to a social media platform, these sites have become a number one source of current news, public opinion, and networking.

Pew Research has shown that social media usership has increased by 65% – from 8% in Feb. of 2005, to 73% in Sept. of 2013. Of the age groups, 90% of internet-users between the ages of 18 and 29 use social networking sites. This is followed by 78% of internet-users age 30 to 49, and 69% of users between the ages of 50 and 64.

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With the vast majority of internet users actively engaging with social media sites, there is an ocean of information about how people connect, but also about what people are saying, thinking, believing, and perceiving. What if social media can become a new type of data set, or a means to collect a new sort of data that expresses social outlooks, stereotypes, perceptions, social connections, public opinion, etc?

How can social media sites be used to gain an insider perspective on some topics?

By using social media platforms as a data set, we can almost gain a very personal insight into the general state of affairs of society or a community. The data is almost more honest in that it provides a real-world snapshot of a particular issue by using the online presence of people.

Social Networks
Using social media as a database, we can determine the type of social network that is created around a topic or cause.  Pew Research Internet Project released a study that show 6 different types of online social structures based on Twitter hashtags. (Examples can be seen by following this link.) Hashtags are used to target online community conversations about a certain idea or topic. In one of the first examples, the hashtag #SOTU was analyzed – which refers to the State of the Union presidential address. Results show a very divided and polarized network where users tend to interact mostly with other like-minded users. It shows a distinction between different opinions and beliefs about a targeted topic.

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How would a network analysis of community issues such as poverty, homelessness, or social inequalities be helpful in addressing those issues?

A network analysis can be helpful in showing the general state of a topic in a community. If a community is divided by a topic, perhaps a greater campaign aimed toward education and understanding needs to be developed. If a community issue is fragmented, an awareness campaign can move the issue from passive community conversation, to community action.

Public Conceptualization of Ideas
Social Media is also useful to determine what ideas people tend to use together. Using the online tool <hashtagify.me>, we searched #happiness to see which other concepts and ideas are most related to the idea of happiness.

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These are the results of #wellbeing:

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When we search #inequality, we learn that the concepts/issues/ideas of gender, capitalism, economy and poverty are all related to ideas of inequality.

Understanding and Community Action
Collaboration between the CUNY Graduate Center’s School of Journalism and NBC News utilized the Twitter hashtag and asked people what poverty meant to them: #PovertyIs

The results are an insightful look into how different people define poverty, and accentuate some aspects over others. By reading through some of the comments, we are presented with different views, opinion and aspects of how we might understand poverty – but also how poverty is experience by others.

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SCOPE worked on a Happiness Matters Campaign that asked residents to give insight into what happiness means here in Sarasota County. By mimicking a campaign like the #PovertyIs campaign, we would be able to point out where we need to focus community efforts because the community was active in defining happiness.

The Limits and Challenges

Like all data sets, the insight provided by social media platforms is also limited. Although the majority of adults are active on social media sites, social media users do not represent an accurate portrait of the general population. In a recent study, many participants expressed concern over researchers using content posted on social media platforms because:

  • despite the online public space provided by social media, many users feel that researchers should seek user consent before the data is mined – even though users publish at their own will
  • some users feel that their privacy is at stake if their posts/tweets, etc. are used for research when researchers don’t take steps to protect user privacy. There is concern that posts can be linked back to user profiles.
  • some users feel that internet anonymity causes exaggerated, incomplete or false posts that researchers cannot rely on as valid measures of public perceptions.

The online world has become a vast community. Social media platforms provide spaces for users to freely publish their own beliefs, perceptions and opinions. The question remains: can this collection of public views be insightful and used for positive change?

It is important to remember, however, that social media has just recently emerged in this boom of technology and internet accessibility. Social media has not gone unscathed by controversy and differing opinions, and the use of social media as social data must be considered in every light before it is accepted as a social research tool.
What are your views on social media platform being used a source of data for social inquiry?

Data Byte: Mobility and Affordability- Understand the Economic Well-Being of Your Greater Community

Are you curious about the economic health of our community? In order to understand the state of our economy, it is important to recognize the varied human experience within our own county. Significant indicators of economic health include upward mobility and the affordability of living.

What does that mean? Well, absolute upward mobility measures “the average economic outcome of a child from a below-median income family,” as is discussed in The Equal Opportunity Project (for more information, check out http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/). As for affordability, for many people, housing and transportation are the two greatest household costs (for more information, check out http://www.locationaffordability.info/About.aspx). So, affordability relates to the ability of individuals to meet their basic needs based on their income and these expenses. Thus, measures of mobility and affordability go hand in hand in illustrating our wellbeing, and the wellbeing of our neighbors!

The following interactive tools enable you to understand both the upward mobility and overall affordability of living in your community, and other communities in the United States, in depth! These tools can help direct the conversation in determining how to improve the economy for all members of our community.

Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, Emmanuel Saez, and Nicholas Turner completed extensive research measuring the various levels of mobility in regions across the United States, highlighting variation. As well, they recognized the presence of the following five characteristics in areas with greater mobility: “less segregation, less income inequality, better schools, greater social capital, and more stable families.” Based on this research, The New York Times created this interactive map that enables you to determine the average upward mobility of a child with parents making a certain level of income in the county.

mobility map MarchCheck out this interactive map at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/business/in-climbing-income-ladder-location-matters.html?pagewanted=all&_r=4&#map-search.

On to affordability! The two tools that will help us gage affordability in Sarasota are The Local Affordability Index mapping tool and the Paycheck to Paycheck graphing tool. The Local Affordability Index mapping tool depicts the affordability of your community for members of 8 different categories: Regional Typical, Regional Moderate, Dual-Income Family, Low-Income, Single Person Very Low Income, Single Professional, Single Workers, and Retirees. Based on the the selected category, the index presents the affordability of an area by predicting the percentage of income you will have to spend on both housing and transportation expenses.

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Check out this interactive map at http://www.locationaffordability.info/lai.aspx!

Last but not least, the Paycheck to Paycheck tool enables you to zoom in on the affordability of living in a specific metropolitan area based on the average home prices or rent for a one or two bedroom apartment and the average income of various occupations. After selecting an occupation, or a set of occupations, this data tool graphs the earnings for a person working in the selected occupation(s) adjacent to the required annual income to live in a home or apartment. This tool enables you to obtain a visual understanding of the affordability of living in Sarasota based on occupation.

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Check out this interactive data tool at http://www.nhc.org/chp/p2p/!

Interested in learning more about the economic health of Sarasota County or other factors that impact our community? Keep an eye out for the 2013 Community Report Card!

Newtown Community Celebrating 100 Years

An article in The Sarasota Times newspaper in April of 1914 reported a new subdivision named Newtown was being developed and offering residents lots for small weekly payments, with 17 acres of land divided into 96 lots. This is the first use of the name Newtown to recognize the new community established east of the Seaboard railroad tracks on Orange Ave. A year later the developer C.N. Thompson reported 40 acres opened up with 210 lots available, so far 132 lots had been purchased and half a dozen homes built.

This year Newtown will be celebrating its centennial starting April 17, 2014 with an opening ceremony at Fredd Atkins Park on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  The Newtown Centennial Steering Committee will be working and collaborating with the community, churches, organizations, businesses, and groups that will be hosting centennial-themed events though April 2015.

For me, being born and raised in Newtown – this is very exciting news – to know that I am apart of such a rich heritage. Just last week we celebrated my great-auntie Mary Morris’s 99th birthday. She shared with me what it was like back-in-the-day when she arrived in Sarasota from Montgomery, Alabama.  The roads were dirt and they used an outhouse, there were no inside plumbing back then. They loved the weather so much; they made Sarasota their home. Soon after, more of my family members began to migrate to the Sunshine State – my mother came from Texas to visit and never left. My father came by way of the growing citrus farms. He too fell in love with Sarasota and made it his home as well.

If you would like to volunteer or get involved in the Newtown Centennial please contact: Che Barnett at 941-358-7860

Mary Butler – ABCD practitioner and SCOPE Volunteer

Growing SCOPE’s Mission Through Consulting Services

As the SCOPE Board of Directors explores ways to be nimble in response to the needs of the community, they have encouraged innovative approaches to delivering SCOPE’s unique services.  For over a decade, SCOPE has served as the greater Sarasota area’s source for reliable community data and inclusive community engagement.  Combining the power of community indicators and robust discussion, study groups and other participative forums hosted by SCOPE have enabled citizens to understand and engage around issues from neighborhoods up to a county-wide level.

Last year, SCOPE had the opportunity to provide a special project for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, assisting in the development of a draft Community Solutions Action Plan to address the grade-level reading needs in our community.  This project combined data analysis of student performance and discussions with a wide range of service providers.   This work inspired us to consider more ways that the power of SCOPE could be focused on individual issues, or the work of specific organizations.

Recently, SCOPE attended a workshop focused on non-profit earned income business models, conducted by consultants from No Margin, No Mission.  Hosted by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation, this workshop explored changes in non-profit funding models and how earned income can be used to sustain and grow the missions of non-profits.  In addition, The Patterson Foundation sponsored four local non-profits in receiving a fourteen week business plan training program.  SCOPE is privileged to have participated in this training and we have been working diligently on developing an earned income model that enables SCOPE to grow our mission in the community.

This approach involves SCOPE providing data analysis and engagement services customized to meet the needs of local non-profits on a consulting basis for an agreed upon fee.  Applying SCOPE’s core competencies around data and engagement, we are in a unique position to assist local non-profits in understanding trends, challenges, gaps, and outcomes.  It is our expectation that the gains enabled by SCOPE’s analysis in exploring opportunities for effectiveness will more than offset the costs to the non-profit.   We anticipate a wide range of projects, from simple GIS mapping of existing data, to more intensive studies of trends and challenges.  As we apply the work that SCOPE has performed on a county-wide level to individual organizations, we are linking assets in a powerful way. By helping to enhance the capacity of other agencies and organizations, SCOPE is able to grow our mission of inspiring excellence in Sarasota.

Peer Review for the 2014 SCOPE Community Report Card

 

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SCOPE has been busy data mining for the 2014 SCOPE Community Report Card. It has been a while since the report card was updated so I would like to give a little refresher on this community resource.

What is the Community Report Card?

SCOPE’s 2014 Community Report Card is a tool that people can use to better understand Sarasota County. This edition of the report card will be filled with community indicators that reflect trends across many facets of community life.

 What are community indicators and what are their purposes?

Indicators are snapshots of information that tell us the trends of progress or problems within our community. Like the gas gauge of a car, community indicators show us information that we cannot see directly, but can be important to us when any issues arise.

 Community indicators can:

  • Help policy makers make informed decisions
  • Initiate and inform dialogue about the community
  • Highlight positive trends so that they may be maintained
  • Detect negative trends early so that they may be addressed

The various indicators within this report are categorized into the nine Domains of Well-Being: health, learning, social environment, built environment, culture and recreation, natural environment, transportation, economy, and civic participation.

 How were the indicators selected?

During the past couple

of years SCOPE has been out in the community asking about what indicators matter most. After listening to residents about what community issues and indicators mattered most during the Data 2.0 workshops, Community Conversations, and High Tech High Touch workshops, we focused our attention in those areas.

 What comes next?

Now that we have collected approximately half of the indicators for the 2014 Community Report Card, SCOPE is holding two Peer Review meetings. These meetings will enable residents with public or expert knowledge of the community indicators to provide their input.

How can you help?

 Please join the Community Report Card Peer Review group! This is your report card and now is your chance to provide your input on the indicators that inform decisions being made in Sarasota County. The meeting options are March 27th at 10am -11:30am (Selby) or April 23 at 3:30pm -5:00pm (SCOPE building).

Only one meeting needs to be attended.  Please contact Laurel Corrao at lcorrao@scopexcel.org or (941) 365-8751 to RSVP.

DataByte: Parks Around You

The SCOPE Community Report Card has been around for more than a decade and is a staple of our data initiative. We collect data from national and local government and organizations to report on different indicators that fall into nine defined domains of well-being:

Health, Learning, Social Environment, Built Environment, Culture and Recreation, Natural Environment, Transportation, Economy, and Civic Participation.

This is a handy tool for our Sarasota community. The data allows us to find areas where Sarasota County is doing exceptionally well, or where more attention needs to be focused. When those areas are pointed out, community initiatives can be rallied to address the issues.

As a result of our High Tech High Touch Workshops last year, we were able to identify which areas or domains residents were most interested in. Not surprisingly, parks and accessibility to parks were on the list! We have been working on expanding the data we are collecting in this domain of well-being, connecting with many individuals around the county on this topic.

In the meantime, we created an open source Google Map that shows the location of parks, fields and recreation centers, as well as natural lands and access to the Legacy Trail.

Both public and academic research has proven time and time again the many economic, social and environmental benefits of public parks. Explore the Active Living Research website for all the research you could possibly need. Or skim this article by the Trust for Public Land that outlines some crucial benefits in economic, social, environmental and public health domains.

  • Homes located near parks have a higher value than homes without easy access to green space.
  • Trees and greenery have the ability to filter pollutants out of the air and water, providing cleaner air and cleaner water.
  • Trees and greenery in parks can work to control stormwater runoff, sometimes more effectively than man-made infrastructures.
  • Parks also provide safe places for children to play and stay active and have shown that access to safe parks lead to increased physical activity and health.

ALR_Infographic_ParksRecreation_Oct2012The general consensus: You  can’t go wrong with parks!

Imagine how parks can benefit you, personally:

  • Parks improve physical health as they promote active lifestyles, as well as psychological health because they provide accessibility to less developed spaces and a place to connect with a more natural environment.
  • Parks provide a restorative space in which to disconnect from a sometimes hectic daily life.
  • Parks improve community cohesion when connectivity between residents increase as they share these public spaces.

The list goes on!

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We’d like to know: In what small ways do parks benefit you?

Take a look at the Google Map and explore your community parks!

We challenge you to explore the parks around your community and perhaps plan adventures to visit those that intrigue you.

Sarasota County has a very streamlined and efficient Parks and Recreation Department that is dedicated to improving and maintaining its public parks. Public parks are not only a vital asset to the Sarasota County community, they are also community landmarks, peaceful corners, and adventure trails.

 Disclaimer:

We cannot guarantee that all of these locations are precisely correct or that this is a wholly inclusive list.

If there are any you would like to add to this map, let us know. We’d like to visit them!

 

International Conference on Positive Aging – A Younger Perspective

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Attending the Seventh Annual International Conference on Positive Aging as a young woman in my 20s certainly gives me a different perspective on the content discussed. Before discussing the conference, I feel I must share my ever evolving view on aging. When I first moved to Sarasota five and a half years ago, I was shocked by the effect it had on my world view. While I have always been a Florida native and experienced a somewhat older demographic, Sarasota was different. At first I was frustrated with slower drivers and a lacking youth visibility. Later on, the older majority grew on me. My heightened awareness of older adults who continued their education by attending New Music New College or New Topics New College and older adults with a thriving social life who carpool together around town helped me understand that “youthfulness” is within your heart and lasts as long as you feed it.

My favorite presentation of the conference was the Monday morning keynote speaker, Victor Strecher, PhD, Director of Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship, University of Michigan School of Public Health. His talk focused on his own fascination with purpose as a driver for changing behavior and giving life meaning. What truly made his talk powerful were the hard facts that support his research in the importance of having a purpose in life. Many studies have shown that chronic diseases are much lower for those people who have a purpose in life. Additionally, people with a strong meaning in life are happier, healthier, and live longer. The powerpoint that Dr. Strecher used was full of fun animations that were obviously designed specifically for his talk. It was not until the end when he disclosed the origin of these animations, his book – On Purpose. After his in depth research on purpose in which he discovered the real power of purpose, he wanted to spread the knowledge in an accessible media, so he chose to publish a graphic novel. I was very moved by this discussion but please do not take my word for it. Check out his website, download his free app that helps you track your progress on your purposeful goals! I already purchased his novel and plan to use the app for my own goals.

Given my existing support of the positive aging movement and my refreshed viewpoint of keeping in mind ones purpose in life, I feel a heightened sense of connection with all generations of Sarasota County. As a young adult, I am just starting to live my dreams and share my vision of a better world. Older adults in our area have either lived a life with great purpose or just finding that truly meaningful purpose in life. Whether we are continuing to reach our goals or redefining them, we all have different reasons for getting up each day and each reason is important! I hope that Victor Strecher’s message will reach many people. Live every day with purpose and you will likely find you are happier, healthier and more fulfilled.

 

Navigating life’s transitions – taking new directions – staying true to course

I was pleased to attend the “Seventh Annual International Conference on Positive Aging”, hosted by the Institute for the Ages, and the wonderful dinner that featured National Public Radio’s Ina Jaffe.  Ina’s presentation and the short-and-sweet fireside chat inspired me to think about how my father reinvented himself at retirement, and again as he transitioned to life in an assisted living facility.

Following the close of WWII my father Mac was discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard and came to Florida, where he entered the building construction trade, building beach cottages and commercial buildings for 30 years.  Having worked his way up from carpenter to supervisor to superintendent, his highest and best use had become his ability to correctly estimate jobs – valuable work – but it took him out of the field and into an office, which wasn’t where he wanted to be.

In his early 50’s Mac decided a life change was in order, so he rented a commercial space on US 301 in Newtown, and shifted from construction to building canoes and other small boats.  Over the next 30 years he would build over 300 vessels.  Through a partnership with Woodenboat Magazine, he began a workshop classroom where he taught hundreds of people how to build their own canoes.  Mac had found a completely new career for himself, shifting his construction skills (and tools) to boatbuilding.  The transition was a wonderful one for him and opened many doors that would not have been available had he remained in the construction field.  He lived by the motto “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood” – a mantra that was carved into the face of one of his wooden tool cabinets – and one that spoke to his enjoyment of the “second half” of his working life.

Fast forward to health problems, time spent in the hospital and rehab, and finally life at a local assisted living facility, for many the end of the line for their life’s passions.  But not Mac.  At the age of 80, he couldn’t just sit there all day and read, or look out the window.  And he had no use for TV.  About to give in to depression, one day he asked me to bring him some of his old ship model tools, and one special set of boat plans and some wood – cut real thin.  He was incubating another transition – and it was to be a successful one!

During his final years on planet Earth, Mac spent the better part of each day constructing model ships – over one hundred and fifty of them!  His assisted living bedroom became his new boat-shop.  Fortunately, the management forgave the sawdust and encouraged his activity.  He entered models in the County Fair and won first prize.  He sold models to visiting friends so he could buy more plans and supplies.  He gave models away to anyone who expressed an interest.  He even had a one-man-show of his models – “Mac Day” – a special event that attracted more people to the facility than any other event they could remember.  For Mac – the waning years and the life changes could not keep him from his interests, his passion and his own way of life.  Like many others he found a way to age with dignity by exploring new possibilities, and spent the final years of his life immersed in his ageless passion.   Never slowing down, on the morning of his last day Mac laid the keel of yet another miniature ship – bringing his life’s work to a close on a high note and welcoming the beginning of another transition.

Mac & Boats

 

DataByte: Power to the Community

We all know the one – the one that looms there night after night, creating the perfect absence of light at the end of the street where your evening walk with the dogs needs to take a turn to get around the block. And although we are all grown up now, the dark watching you at the end of the street is a little more frightening than you’d ever admit…

‘If only they would fix that street light,’ you think.

SeeClickFix is a great online website where you are able to report neighborhood issues. Anything ranging from a flickering or dead streetlight, potholes, sinkholes, graffiti, overgrown trees or shrubs that block sight of traffic, lost signs, damaged signs – you name it. This is a platform where you can take action on existing problems in your neighborhood that officials need to be made aware of. It is a way in which citizens can connect with the ‘officials’ in their community to bring solutions to neighborhood problems.

The tool is easy to use. To report an issue, you simply enter a location or address then provide a description of the problem, and even upload an image if you so choose. The tool has an App which allows you to make reports from the convenience of your mobile device. You also have the option to receive alerts about a particular area if you want to know where to avoid potholes or risky issues.

www.seeclickfix.com

www.seeclickfix.com

Sarasota County is already making use of this online tool. Many reports have been made all over the county and ‘Sarasota County Administrator’ has an eye over the reports being made. To push an already reported issue, you can vote for that issue to increase the chances of it being addressed. There will always be a pothole in the road, but this will allow officials to take notice of those that are collective community issues.

So next time you trip on a cracked sidewalk, make a quick report. This tool is not only a way for communities to improve on the built environment, it is also a way for us to work together in effecting those changes and improvements. To improve pedestrian safety, make reports when pedestrian signals aren’t properly working or are not timed appropriately. If there is a corner where drivers fail to take notice of pedestrians, make a point of reporting proper signage for pedestrian right-of-way. To improve the safety of bicyclists, submit an issue if the bike lanes have become faded and need to be repainted, or are incomplete. In this way, a safer built environment for our communities comes from the small actions many community members.

Unlike city officials that maintain infrastructure, we live in our communities every day and we are more in tune with the needs of our own built environment. Is it not then our responsibility to point out the issues and the improvements?

SeeClickFix is an easy and accessible tool that make neighborhood issues aware to those that need to know those issues exist. Maintaining and improving on our built environment is a community effort. This is one way in which you can take action.

Guest Blog Post by Juliana Dearr – New College of Florida Thesis Student

 

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The map displayed above is a basic description of food access points in Newtown, Sarasota.  The geographic parameters of the surveyed area are Myrtle street northbound, 10th street southbound, Washington boulevard eastbound, and US 41 westbound.  Within these boundaries, I plotted all food locations and sorted them into six distinct categories: large grocery stores, small grocery stores, specialty grocery stores, restaurants, gardens, and hunger relief.  To clarify, the specialty stores are two Asian markets and one Hispanic market, and hunger relief locations distribute free or substantially discounted food.  Once I collected this data, Laurel Corrao at the SCOPE office helped me plot the locations over census data as a map.  The shaded areas of the map represent the percentages of households that do not own a vehicle for transportation.  As the map shows, approximately one in five or six households in the brown shaded area surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Way do not have a private vehicle.  In the remaining area of Newtown one in twenty to one in one hundred households do not have a vehicle, a significantly smaller amount.

The goal of plotting this information was to show what food is available in Newtown and the accessibility of food locations.  I gathered this information for my senior thesis at New College of Florida, concentrating on cultural anthropology.  The goal of my thesis is to better understand food accessibility and community improvement efforts in the North Sarasota area.   As the map indicates, many households in this area do not have a vehicle.  Therefore, it is more likely that members of these households will purchase food that is in close proximity to their houses.  Understanding what types of food are available in the radius around them will shed light on the potential barriers to health improvements in this low-income neighborhood.

A healthy diet is crucial for a healthy body.  The types of foods we
eat influence rates of chronic illness, such as mental illness, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.  After creating this map, I surveyed the varieties of food sold in each of the grocery stores in search of healthy food.  The two large groceries, Publix and Walmart Neighborhood Market, have a wide variety of fresh and processed foods.  The specialty markets have some fresh produce, fish, and meat as well as specialty processed foods.  The small groceries, which are the most accessible in the low-transportation area, are almost exclusively processed foods.  Some small groceries, such as Orange Grocery and Janie’s Garden Market, feature a limited variety of fresh, frozen, and canned produce as well as fresh meats and a wider variety of grain choices.  However, most of the small groceries, such as Moore’s Grocery, Express Grocery, and Dread Market, focus on snacks, alcohol, and soft drinks while stocking very few other items.  The other items that could be considered in the realm of fresh or healthy food were incredibly limited and repeated throughout the stores, such as canned Vienna sausage, whole milk, sugary cereals, white bread, and American cheese product slices.  I also noticed these grocery items have higher prices at the small stores than they do at the major supermarket chains.  When I asked the store clerks how the decision is made as to what items are stocked, they insisted that the processed foods they sell are what people in the area want to buy.  Some even said attempts to buy fresh food left groceries rotting on store shelves.

While nearby stores may lack wholesome products, All Faiths Food Bank supplies several local partners in Newtown with food for distribution.  As a non-profit, the food bank does not have to provide based on customer demand.  They can choose to supply healthier foods and do their best to stimulate local interest in healthy eating.  Churches and other community organizations, such as Dollar Dynasty, receive shipments from All Faiths and distribute them in the Newtown community.  This past year, All Faiths began a mobile market, “Sprout”, the delivers fresh produce to areas in need.  Customers of the market get fresh produce and educational materials on a fit diet.

Overall, the food selection available in this area is concerning.  Junk foods that are linked to chronic health problems are far more readily available than fresh foods.  The lack of transportation in the central area of Newtown implies that certain households are limited to what is available in their immediate vicinity.  Going forward, it is important to understand food availability issues if we hope to improve community health.  I think that increasing the amount of fresh, healthy food available in Newtown has the potential to structurally improve health conditions in this low-income area.  While education programs and donation services are helpful approaches to health problems, I believe that permanent changes to businesses have more potential to improve what people eat, in turn increasing their health over their lifetime.  Increasing affordable public transportation is another way we can increase health in the long-term, as increased transportation will increase food accessibility.  Based on this data, my future recommendation is to explore options whereby the local government and foundations could incentivize small grocery store owners to increase their stock of fresh foods.    As a city and as a community, it is our responsibility to plant the seeds of change in the present if we hope to see blossoms in our future.

Thank you again to the team at SCOPE, especially Ms. Corrao, for working with me so closely on this project.