Research Your Community

This interactive map helps you understand and describe the communities in which you are working to improve access to healthy foods.

To get started, enter the name of a “State,” “County/City/Town,” or “ZIP Code” in the “Location” field. Highlight the geography you wish to view and click “Submit.” This action will display your area of interest outlined in orange and allow you to generate a report for that area. Next, select one of the options under “Add Data” to the left of the map. Once a data layer is selected, you can use tool in several ways.

How to Use the Tool

To get started, enter the name of a “State,” “County/City/Town,” or “ZIP Code” in the “Location” field above the map. Highlight the geography you wish to view and click “Submit.” This action will display your area of interest outlined in orange and allow you to generate a report for that area.

Next, select one of the options under “Add Data” to the left of the map. 

Once your data layer is selected, you can use the tool the following ways:

  • Zoom and Pan on the Map—Using your mouse, you can zoom into the map to see neighborhood-level data, zoom out to see regional or national views, and pan around to see other locations.
  • Click to Identify—You can click on any shaded area of the map to find the exact value for that location. This is called the "Click to Identify” bubble. The bubble will also show you the values for the larger geographies in which the shaded area sits. Click “Submit” to return your selected geography.
  • Legend—The legend on the right side of the map shows you the values for each range on the map. A good rule is that the darker the color, the higher concentration or value of the shaded area.
  • Change the Year—Click on “Edit Data.” In the legend, you may be able to change the time period of the data you are viewing. If additional time periods are available, just click on one of them. You may be able to toggle between years, quarters, or months.
  • Change the Variable—Click on “Edit Data.” In the legend, you may also be able to change the variable on the map. Generally, you can toggle between the number (#) or count related to a data layer, to a median ($) value, or to a percent (%) of the data layer. Depending on the data being viewed, you may have other variable options in the legend as well.

You can also generate reports that include tables and charts for the selected geography by clicking on the “Get Report” button. Selecting a larger geography, such as a county instead of a zip code, may result in a more comprehensive report. You can save and share your report. Note that all the data indicators that are displayed by the map are included in the narrative report. See comparison chart of data indicators for details.

Need help? The Research Your Community Tool was developed by PolicyMap. If you have questions about this tool and would like to speak with someone by telephone, please call 1-866-923-MAPS (6277). We are available to assist you between 9:00 AM and 5:30 PM Eastern Time.  If you would like to submit a question by email, contact

Data Categories

This tool provides 60 data indicators related to a variety of topics. Broadly, the categories of data are the following: 

  • Demographics includes data on race and ethnicity, income, poverty, recipients of SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), and rates of unemployment.
  • Food Environment includes data on supermarkets, farmers markets, and the degree of access to healthy food retail outlets such as USDA’s Low Income, Low Access designated census tracts and Reinvestment Fund’s Limited Supermarket Access areas.
  • Health includes data on fruit and vegetable consumption, obesity, physical inactivity, and diabetes.
  • Federal Programs and Investments includes eligibility data for various federal funding programs such as New Markets Tax Credits and Community Development Block Grants.

The data displayed by this tool can vary according to geography. For instance, you can view unemployment data for states, counties, and municipalities, but not zip codes.  Some data sources are updated frequently, while other data are refreshed occasionally.

Click here for a list of data indicators and their sources.  

Click here for detailed descriptions of all data sources.

Using Maps and Data to Make Your Case

Many healthy food access policy efforts and funding opportunities require data-supported descriptions of a community’s needs as part of the application process. For example, federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative applications often request data related to (i) the lack of access to healthy food retail outlets in your community; (ii) patterns of non-healthy food consumption, such as low rates of fruit and vegetable consumption; (iii) poor health indicators including rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related chronic diseases; and/or (iv) participation in food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

This tool provides much of the data requested and can be used to strengthen your funding application. Please note that the food access landscape is ever changing, and you may need to corroborate data indicators with local knowledge. We also encourage you to explore other resources in this portal to learn more about determining whether a community is underserved by healthy food retail and to make the case for healthy food retail investment.

The following is an example of a narrative and maps using the data and information generated by the “Get Report” function for Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland and zip code 44106.

Almost one-third of the Cuyahoga County’s residents live in the City of Cleveland (delineated with orange border), the County’s largest city. Accessing healthy food is a challenge for some Americans - particularly those living in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Research has shown that, if a person is Black, Hispanic or living in a low-income block group they are more likely to live in an area with limited access to a full-service supermarket. Per 2015 American Community Survey (ACS) data, persons of color represent 76.3% of Cleveland’s population. In terms of age, 23.16% were children under age 18, while 12.67% were over age 65. The median household income for Cleveland is $26,150 and one fifth of Cleveland’s families live in poverty. 

Many of Cleveland’s low income residents do not have reasonable access to healthy foods. Per the USDA, an estimated 105 of the City’s 177 census tracts are Low Income, Low Access areas.  Based on Reinvestment Fund's 2014 Limited Supermarket Analysis (LSA), there are 5 LSA areas within Cleveland. The estimated leakage for these areas is $63,241,000; this represents the amount that residents spend at stores located outside of the LSA.  In 2013, there were two (2) full service supermarkets located in Zip Code 44106 (delineated with orange border), four (4) Limited Service stores located, and 5 farmers markets within the study area. SNAP benefits are accepted at 23 participating stores, farmers markets, social service agencies or other non-retail providers in this community.

Within Cuyahoga County, 21.23% of people received SNAP benefits in 2011, amounting to $461,497,000 in benefits to program participants. An estimated 84% percent of county residents consume less than the recommended five servings of fruit or vegetables per day. As of 2013, 34.7% of the population residing in the Zip Code 44106 (delineated with orange border) are considered obese.