Research your Community

This interactive map helps you understand and describe the communities in which you are working to improve access to healthy foods.
View the Research Your Community: Virtual Training webinar archive for more information.
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 Layer" to the left of the map.  Once a data layer is selected, you can use tool in several ways.  See "How to Use the Tool" below for more information.

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 Layer” to the left of the map. 
Once your data layer is selected, you can use the tool the following ways:
Add Sites - You can also overlay point data on the thematic maps by selecting a set from the “Add Sites” menu.
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.
Map Title - This simple sentence, located at the top of the map, tells you what data is currently displayed on the map.
Details - Select the "Details" button next to the map title to learn more about the data you are viewing. The "Click Data Directory" link will take you to the PolicyMap website for more information on the data source.
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.
Ranges - The legend on the map shows you the values for each range on the map. A good rule is: The darker the color, the higher concentration or value of the shaded area.
Change the Year - 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 - 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.
Change the Data Layer - You can use the “Add Data Layer” menu in the upper left to select a different data layer.
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 not all of 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 TRF 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 9:00am & 5:30pm Eastern Time.  If you would like to submit a question by email, contact:

Research Your Community

Many healthy food access initiatives 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. 
This tool also offers a one-click report on a defined geography, making it simple to share data and maps with colleagues and add data into proposals easily.  You can also begin to see the impact of your work as underlying data is updated.

Data Categories

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

  • 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 TRF’s Limited Supermarket Access areas.
  • Health – includes data on fruit and vegetable consumption, obesity, physical inactivity, and diabetes
  • Federal Programs & 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

A map can be a powerful way to illustrate a community and its needs. For example, let’s look at maps for Zip Code 44106 (outlined in orange) which is located in Cleveland, Ohio.


The following is an example of a narrative description that you can write for a funding proposal using the data generated by the “Get Report” function for  Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland and Zip Code 44106.


An estimated 83% percent of Cuyahoga County residents consume less than the recommended five servings of fruit or vegetables per day. As of 2009, in Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, 10.7% of adults have diabetes and 30% are obese. As of 2011, a fifth of Cuyahoga County residents participated in the federal food assistance program (SNAP), a rate that has doubled since 2000. SNAP benefits in 2011 amounted to $461,497,000 provided to program participants. Similarly, the number of families living in poverty in the county has also increased significantly - 36,535 in 2000 compared to 42,523 in 2012.


Almost a third of the County’s residents are concentrated in Cleveland, its largest city. Many of Cleveland’s low income residents have inadequate access to healthy foods. For example, the estimated household income for zip code 44106 is less than $35,000 per year and just two grocery stores are located within the zip code.


According to the USDA, an estimated 105 of the City’s 177 census tracts are Low Income, Low Access tracts. Based on TRF's 2011 Limited Supermarket Analysis (LSA), there are 8 LSA areas within Cleveland. 57,865 people live in one of these LSA areas and are considered to have limited access to healthy food. The estimated leakage for this area is $60,700,000, which represents the amount that residents spend at stores located outside of the LSA.