Saturday, November 14, 2015

Special Topics, Food Deserts and QGIS

      Welcome to the beginning of the last multi-week module in Special Topics in GIS. The focus for the rest of the course is two fold. The focus topic for the remainder of the class is on Food Deserts and their increasing proliferation due to urbanization and expansion of the markets / grocers containing wholesome and nutritious foods to include fresh vegetables and fruits and other produce. This second large aspect of this project is that all preparation, analysis, and reporting for the focus area will be done using open source software. As the certificate program as a whole draws to a close it is a good introduction into what is available outside of ESRI's ArcGIS suite of applications. This week I specifically used Quantum GIS (QGIS) to build the base map and do the initial processing of Food Desert data for the Pensacola area of Escambia County, Florida. The overall objectives going into this week are below:

  • Perform basic navigation through QGIS
  • Learn about the differences of data processing with multiple data sets and geoprocessing tools in QGIS, while employing multiple data frames and similar functionality.
  • Experience the differences of map creation with the QGIS specific Print Composer

 Here is a map not unlike many of the others that I have created using ESRI's ArcMAP. That is in fact the point of one huge aspect of this project. There is open source, defined as free to use software which you can personally suggest improvements for update and redistribution to the masses, applications which perform quite similar tasks and produce similar outputs. QGIS is one of these options. Given the background in ArcGIS from the rest of this certificate program there is not as steep a learning curve in picking up QGIS and running with it. There are definitely differences, but with little instruction it becomes fairly intuitive just like ArcMAP. Now you might ask why, if this thing is so similar wouldnt everybody choose it over ESRI products? There is still advanced tools and spatial analysis functions in ArcGIS that are beyond this software. Not everything is wholly interoperable. So for the basic to moderate tasks, absolutely they can be done in QGIS. But sometimes there will be no substitute for the processing ease and power of ArcGIS.
Back to this specific map, what you're looking at is two frames or two sides of the same information. You are presented with both Food Deserts and Food Oasis by census tract for the Pensacola area of Escambia County. These deserts were calculated by comparing the centroid (geographic center) of a census tract with its distance to a grocery store. Tracts without a grocery store providing fresh produce are said to be in a Food Desert. The average person in these areas has to travel farther to obtain fruits and vegetables and the like. When so doing other closer, less healthy alternatives might be taking precedence for these people. Ultimately those with less access are likely to be less healthy overall and that is the issue we are starting to get into with this subject. Keep checking for the next installments of analysis as we continue to look at this problem. The area above is just an example, as the project moves along my analysis will focus on Palm Springs California. Thank you.

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