Community-Centered, Health, Equitable, Ecological, and Regional Food System Mapping Project (CHEER)

The CHEER project seeks to make spatial data regarding the regional food system of Western New York more accessible to the public and a wide range of stakeholders through the creation and management of an online GIS mapping dashboard. This project builds on, expands, and formalizes the Buffalo food system mapping done by the Seeding Resilience project in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Food Lab members research, collate, and map data that pertain to the nine domains of the food system in Western New York, as well as summative data about the regional food system and emergency food system. The nine domains are 1) food production, 2) aggregation and wholesale, 3) food processing, 4) food retail, 5) food service, 6) institutional food procurement, 7) transportation and logistics, 8) management of wasted food and food loss, and 9) acquisition, preparation, & eating.


The CHEER mapping dashboard is participatory and interactive: community members can submit their “food system stories” to the dashboard, ensuring that the maps reflect Western New Yorkers’ lived experience of the food system. Furthermore, computer science researchers in the Food Lab are developing machine-learning programs that can identify fruits and vegetables in photos of produce displays. This will allow the dashboard to create a real-time image of the available foods in a community based on user-submitted photos.


The CHEER project supports Food Future Western New York, a regional food system assessment and planning initiative (part of Build Back Better WNY) for the nine counties of Western New York: Allegany, Cattaragus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming. As part of the CHEER project, Food Lab researchers are conducting a social network analysis to understand how the regional planning process built and strengthened personal and professional networks within the Western New York food system.