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Syracuse University geography student helps in the battle against hunger in New York State
Syracuse University geography student helps in the battle against hunger in New York StateJune 06, 2006Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
When Jennifer Perrone first came to Syracuse University three years ago, she never imagined that her studies would enable her to help end hunger. As a summer intern with the statewide Hunger Action Network of New York State (HANNYS), Perrone is using her expertise in geographic information systems software (GIS) to create maps that identify areas where hunger is likely to be a problem, and enable organizations like HANNYS to target areas for program development or outreach.
On June 6, National Hunger Awareness Day, HANNYS is hosting a press conference to discuss its findings on usage of the Summer Food Service Program for school aged children and the accessibility of farmer’s markets in relation to areas of high levels of poverty. Perrone created a map for each project. Both maps cover the areas of Albany, Monroe, Onondaga and Westchester counties.
For the summer food service program in Westchester County, for example, only 17.3 percent of students eating a free lunch during the academic year are accessing free meals over the summer. This fits a pattern across the state, where there exists a significant gap between the number of students using the National School Lunch Program and the number of them taking advantage of summer food service programs. Through the use of GIS, Perrone was able to identify schools (that do not currently have summer food sites) in areas of high poverty rates for families with children. Similar maps are being generated for the Capital District and Monroe, Dutchess and Onondaga counties, as well as some for statewide analysis.
The map of Westchester farmer’s markets features a base layer showing areas with high concentrations of individuals in poverty. Perrone created an overlay showing the locations of farmer’s markets in the areas. She found that although the majority of the markets are located in areas of poverty, none of them accept electronic benefits transfer (EBT) or food stamps. HANNYS commissioned the map because one of its goals is to ensure that all people have access to the kind of fresh, nutritious foods available at farmer’s markets. Similar maps are being generated for Albany, Monroe, Dutchess, Erie, Onondaga, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties.
Born in Syracuse, and now living in Belle Mead, N.J., Perrone is a rising senior with a double major in geography and policy studies in The College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. She became acquainted with HANNYS this past spring, while working on an independent study with the Syracuse Hunger Project, a similar program that uses mapping to address the problem of food insecurity in Syracuse. HANNYS Executive Director Bich Ha Pham saw the Syracuse Hunger Project maps and contacted Jonnell Allen, community geographer at Syracuse University, to express her interest in expanding the hunger mapping to a statewide scale. Allen oversees Perrone?s work and creates maps for a variety of other community development and public health programs in Syracuse.
Perrone began by collecting and organizing data for HANNYS’ summer food service and farmer’s market efforts. When the semester came to an end, she applied for a summer internship with the organization to continue her work. Her internship is being funded by the Robert B. Menschel Public Service Internship Award from the Center for Public and Community Service at SU, and in part by HANNYS.
Since then, she has been working toward completing the maps. Her goal is to map all of the farmers’ markets in New York State and begin work on statewide maps that show use of Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) supplemental nutrition programs this month. The goal of the mapping is to increase awareness of poverty and food security in New York State, generate compelling examples of food insecurity risk and advocate increased interventions.
“The use of GIS is quickly expanding and it’s really exciting to see it being used not just for conservation, or to predict weather patterns, but to assist organizations like HANNYS in helping people more effectively,” says Perrone. “SU really has a lot to offer in this area, especially with our community geographer Jonnell Allen. I hope the connections made between our community geography program and HANNYS will continue to strengthen, expand and make positive changes toward ending food insecurity in New York.”
Upon completing her work with HANNYS, Perrone will travel home to New Jersey for an internship with the Passaic River Coalition, but hopes to continue working with the Syracuse Hunger Project in the fall.
“GIS can provide a valuable service to cities and organizations working on hunger or poverty issues. It’s a great tool, so I’m just as eager to spread the word on how it can be used to help people as I am to use it in the field,” she says.
For more information on community geography at SU, contact Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (315) 443-4890, or visit http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/geo/community_geography/. Visit the site to view maps of completed projects, complete a map project request form or find information on upcoming projects. To view the maps mentioned in this release, visit http://www.hungeractionnys.org/mapping_06.htm.