The Towson University Center for GIS and the Basic Needs Hub recently hosted a BTU Lunch & Learn showcasing the collaboration to create the TU Food Security Map, an interactive map of local food assistance resources for the TU community. To learn more about the Food Security Map, check out this recent blog post.

Finding resources for food assistance can be challenging for students according to Faith Borras, director of the Hub. Different locations tend to have varying levels of information online about hours of operation, how to get there, and what to expect. Even for resources with websites, not all of them are compatible on mobile screen sizes with smart phones being the preferred device for college students. In response, the Hub decided to create a mobile-friendly interactive map to serve as a centralized source of information for community members in need.

Faith Borras, director of the Basic Needs Hub at Towson University, (left) and GIS specialist Arianna Cacic (right) present their work to Towson University faculty and staff during a BTU Learn & Learn.

There were several motivations for creating the Food Security Map, Faith reports. In addition to overcoming nutrition access barriers for college students at TU and TUNE, there was a desire to keep up with best practices as a growing number of organizations are leveraging GIS technology. The map also has the potential to help secure funding by directly supporting the efforts of the Sustainability Department. Lastly, the map raises awareness about the issue of food insecurity by visualizing the challenges that community members face.

Related blog post: TU Center for GIS and TU Foodshare partner to help mitigate food insecurity issues students may face

CGIS and the Hub worked together to decide what data was needed for the map, which included addresses and information for food assistance resources within 10 miles of both campuses. Once the Hub compiled the data, CGIS was able to build the map using ArcGIS Experience Builder, a configurable platform available through ArcGIS Online for creating web apps with little to no code. The last step of the partnering process was to set the Hub up with the resources they needed to maintain the Food Security Map and its data. CGIS sets up partners with access to maps and data as well as documentation and training for data maintenance. This allows the Hub to independently make updates as needed.

If you and your organization have an idea for a map and would like to partner with the Center for GIS, contact for more information!