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Participatory mapping of regional food assets using volunteered geographic information systems

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posted on 22.05.2021, 10:12 authored by Victoria Fast
Local food systems are increasingly being studied in response to the threats imposed on global agri-industrial food systems. Central to local food is the community who is imaging and implementing diverse and hyper-local food assets, which are making a significant, but largely unknown, contribution to food security, resiliency, and sustainability. It is important to align these assets with broader regional food policies, programs, and regulations. However, there are few mechanisms to engage stakeholders or share local information. One possible mechanism to learn about local food assets is volunteered geographic information (VGI); a phenomenon that blends crowdsourcing, citizen science, and online mapping. It is currently being studied for its ability to engage and gather information from diverse and under-represented groups. This policy-relevant research investigates how VGI can support greater engagement and knowledge sharing across diverse food stakeholders. To achieve this objective, the VGI system framework is established to study the processes that support the creation of VGI. Next, the new era of food mapping, dubbed Food Mapping 2.0, is investigated to understand the impact evolving mapping techniques have on the engagement of food stakeholders. Lastly, the VGI systems framework, which is embedded in participatory geographic information system and participatory action research methods, is applied to support participatory mapping of regional food assets in Durham Region. His research gathered contributions on over 200 food assets in Durham Region – an upper-tier municipality just east of Toronto consisting of eight lower-tier municipalities – effectively capturing the distributed intelligence of government, not-for-profit, and community stakeholders. The crowdsourced data include locations, descriptions, and media related to farms, markets, community gardens, foodscapes, and other innovative food assets. The community identified urban food assets as a central strength of the regional food system. Overall, this project enabled the creation of an open food assets dataset, further supporting the development of an online Food Assets map and a Crowdsourcing Urban Food Assets report, which are collective used to inform future food policy, regulation, and program development. Overall, this research revealed a uniquely local and community-driven perspective about food system assets within Durham, while serving as a prototype of the VGI systems framework.



Doctor of Philosophy


Environmental Applied Science and Management

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


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