“Community Conversations” at Ypsilanti Farmers Markets

Image 1: Community member placing a dot on the map on Tuesday June 23rd at the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers Market.

Image 1: Community member placing a dot on the map on Tuesday June 23rd at the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers Market.

Earlier this summer, one of the Washtenaw Food Policy Council’s partners, Growing Hope, launched an interactive map survey at their Downtown and Depot town Ypsilanti Farmers markets locations. This interactive map was intended to engage Ypsilanti community members in reflective conversations about their current access to core services (hospitals, schools, police departments, etc.) as well as access to other necessary services that might fall outside of a strict “core services” definition (food retailers, daycare centers, etc.) The map and corresponding answers help create a visual demonstration of transportation needs and the additional community needs identified by the survey.

One of the great parts about this project is you get to hear from people at a local level; it’s critical to ensure that local voice is integrated into developing places where people can safely get where they need to go regardless of the method of transportation.”– Michelle Snitgen (Active Communities Coordinator at the Michigan Fitness Foundation)

This mapping project is supported through a partnership with the Michigan Fitness Foundation and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG).  Growing Hope is one of 7 organizations implementing projects through this partnership. Other organizations include Programs to Educate all Cyclists (PEAC), YouthVoice, CHASS Center, Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, Youth Connection and the Area Agency on Aging 1B. Each of these organizations is having conversations about access to core services in their respective area but with a different lens based on their organization’s focus.

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Image 2: Close-up of marked transit routes on the map

Not only is the giant map eye catching, it also reflects participants’ personal experiences. To help engage participants in a conversation about their transportation experiences, there was a table with Growing Hope staff members as well as a chalk board with community conversation questions such as:

Where do you need to go?

What helps you get there?

Why can’t you get there?

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Image 3: Sampling of popsicle sticks with written response

Walking along the map, participants located their home and then placed an orange dot to mark the location. Then participants placed green dots where they frequently purchased groceries, a red dot representing school or work, and a blue dot to denote their doctor’s office and other health care provider locations. While placing the dots and walking around the map, participants placed tape along their commute route and wrote comments about their transportation experience. Common examples were noting pothole locations, popular roads that lacked adequate bike lanes, as well as marking specific bus route difficulties.

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Image 4: The large colored balls represent respondent’s primary way of getting around. Blue: walking, Green: biking, Yellow: car, Red: bus

The interactive fun continued as participants got a popsicle stick where they wrote down their zip code and one thing they would improve to make it easier to get where they want to go throughout the community (Image 3). To help understand the survey demographics, there were two containers with different colored plastic balls (Image 4). In one container, small bouncy balls denoted the respondents’ age range and in the other bucket the color of the large plastic ball represented their primary way of getting around (bus, car, bike, or walking).

Growing Hope is going to compile this information and share it with SEMCOG. It is the hope that the local feedback collected will help SEMCOG to prioritize and fund the proposed projects and “needs areas” as they were identified by residents.

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Image 5. All ages can participate! A daughter and her mother enjoy using the map.

The Washtenaw Food Policy council Food Access and Nutrition PAT is currently engaged in improving and advocating for healthy food access in Washtenaw county and is impressed with our community partner’s efforts.

Article by Michaela Palmer, Washtenaw Food Policy Council Intern