After hours of data entry, I finally completed my Food Banks of new Orleans Map. Development Services International is going to put it on the website and we will hopeful disseminate it to the food insecure around the city. My supervisor and I are brainstorming how to reach a wider audience, and what features we could add to the map to make it even better.
One idea was a complete community services map, with food banks, grocery stores, community centers, unemployment centers and more all in one place. It would be a tool that would help people capitalize on the resources that are already available in New Orleans. We are beginning to collaborate with other members of DevSI who are mapping sexual violence and racial crimes.
This project has opened many doors for the expansion of public service mapping within our organization and I’m happy to have been a part of it.
Throughout my internship I’ve had multiple experiences that have been culturally enriching. One in specific comes to mind that gave me insight. I was in the Lower Ninth Ward with a colleague and we were walking around talking to people in the neighborhood. We wanted to get an idea of what was already going on in the area, whether we needed to start a project there, and whether people would be receptive to our work.
We talked to a handful of people, but one person who really stood out was a man named John. He was sitting in his truck and we struck up a conversation with him. We asked him our regular questions about community gardens and farming in the area, but he also asked us some questions that put things in perspective. He wanted to know where we were from, what exactly we were doing, and made some interesting comments about the area.
John highlighted an issue that is constantly on my mind with community redevelopment projects: the perception of the community of outsiders coming in to fix their problems. It is a difficult and sensitive topic, one that I have yet come to terms with and would like to discuss further. It’s often an issue of contention, but varies of course by neighborhood. The residents of the Lower Ninth seemed open to community projects, but skeptical all the same.
One comment that John made really stood out to me. We were talking about the houses in the area, “Brad Pitt Homes” (Make It Right Foundation). He pointed out one house down the street and noted that it didn’t have a covering over the front porch. He was perplexed as to why anyone would ever build an incomplete front porch. To him, the covered front porch that typifies New Orleans homes is a dear and essential part of life. It is particularities of areas like this that outsiders can have trouble grasping. Organizations must be intentional about getting community opinion and feedback.
(Was originally published on July 5th, but was deleted)
It’s been almost a full month at my internship, and my goals are now clearly defined and I’m learning a lot. My end goal is to create a searchable map feature to be dispersed over the internet. The map will pinpoint places to access food – including food banks, pantries, community gardens etc. My hope is that this tool will alleviate some of the stress of finding the next meal. There is currently no digital database through which people can find this sort of information, and with the irregular hours of opening of many of these access areas, it can be difficult for people to find food when they are most in need.
So far I have familiarized myself with a few mapping softwares, including Open Street Map and ArcGIS, to determine which will suit the project best. I’m learning a skill that I believe will be extremely useful in my future education and career. Mapping and knowledge of geographic software is a desirable skill in the urban planning and environmental sector. I’m thankful that I get to dedicate my summer to learning this valuable skill!
I feel good about the work that I am doing this summer, as I hope that it will serve indefinitely as a beneficial resource for those in need. I’m also learning a lot about urbanization and sustainable development through suggested articles and individual research on the topics. I’m able to educate myself through managing the DevSI social media pages and posting(reading) interesting articles.
Overall everything is going swimmingly, and I’m happy to have a clear, achievable goal for the end of the summer.
Last week I started my internship with Development Services International, an NGO that focuses on analytics and mapping to address social issues. I am the Sustainable Urbanization intern for the summer, based in New Orleans.
My first map will consist of all of the food banks in New Orleans, providing easy access to information about where they are located and their hours. I’m excited for all the new skills that I’m going to learn this summer and that my internship will result in a tangible resource for lower income families.
My first foray into the organization was a meeting with a local farmer, David Young, in theLower Ninth Ward. David has 26 plots of farmland in the city, and shared his wealth of knowledge about growing in the area and dealing with logistical issues. I got a better sense of what providing fresh food for low-income residents really entails. David showed us around a few of his plots, including one with honey bees! I actually had one bee that kept following me down the street and wouldn’t leave me alone – I was glad to be wearing a hat with a net covering my face!
– Becca Greaney