Grantee Blog 2020

Decision Time! What Information is Needed for an Effective, Interactive Mapping Tool?

In our last blog we mentioned how we were focused on rebuilding connections not only between coalition members but with PolicyMap, our online mapping tool developer. This month we focused on deciding which specific data we needed to display in our online mapping tool and gathering it. . . which wasn’t as easy as you might expect!

First, we learned each food provider location we wanted to include in our online mapping tool (ex. food pantry, soup kitchen, mobile market) is considered a “data indicator” by PolicyMap—and PolicyMap only allows you to upload 5 custom data indicators. This doesn’t mean your online tool is limited to 5 data indicators though – just 5 custom ones.

See, PolicyMap has its own database of 50 different data indicators you are welcome to pick from and use in your online tool. And you can essentially use as many of those pre-determined indicators as you’d like. (You can see their list of predetermined data indicators here if you’re interested.)

With this in mind, we thought about having all of the food provider types under one custom data indicator to give us leeway with the other custom data indicators, but ultimately decided it would be best to sort them out by the most common types of providers. This will allow users to search by the specific type of food provider they are interested in, so someone who only wants to find the nearest soup kitchen doesn’t have to search through all the listings to find it. In the end, we decided on the following data indicators for our mapping tool:



Now that we had those figured out, we had to decide what information should show up when a person clicks or taps on a provider to learn more. At first we were just going to use the information provided in the original food provider and transit map our coalition partner Jewish Family Services created. After some thought though, we realized we should include some contact information so people who had never heard of these providers could reach out with any questions they have. We also decided to include a description of the type of food with each in case the user wasn’t familiar with food provider types (which is especially important for the other food provider data indicator). The final list of information to include is below:

With all of that decided, we were able to focus on finding the information to include for each data set— which was easier said than done! Food pantries, soup kitchens, other food providers, and transit info we had from the original food provider and transit map. However, something like summer feeding sites changes yearly and is harder to get right now because of the pandemic. We’re still working on getting all of this information together, but we were able to re-format and send some of this to PolicyMap so they can begin building the tool . . . and the lessons learned from formatting it in a way that can be read by PolicyMap’s software is a story for the next blog.


About the Grantee

The Gateway Family YMCA

The Gateway Family YMCA (TGFY) is a community-based organization rooted in Christian principles and committed to building healthy lives through programs that strengthen spirits, minds, and bodies for people of all ages, religions, and cultures. A leader in the Shaping Elizabeth coalition, TGFY is committed towards supporting the health, nutrition, and physical activity of all Elizabeth residents.