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‘Food Security Hackathon’ explores data, draws insights on Boston’s food system, economic disruption and resilience

How stable and just is Boston’s food system? What does it look like, in size and complexity?

Northeastern University’s (NU) College of Arts, Media and Design and the Global Resilience Institute (GRI) hosted “Sourcing Boston,” a hackathon for participants to explore data and draw insights about food insecurity, economic disruption and resilience.

In partnership with Thomson Reuters Labs and RStudio, the event was held November 10-11, and began with 5-minute “lightning talks” from GRI post-doc Liz Allen, Thomson Reuters Labs Data Visualization Lead Brian Romer, Project Bread Manager of Public Policy Leran Minc and Red Tomato Marketing and Development Manager Gideon Burdick.

“‘Sourcing Boston’ was my first hackathon experience, and I was thoroughly impressed with the feeling of collaborative energy that characterized the event,” said Allen. “Teams took on a variety of data analysis projects to understand the driving forces behind complex problems related to food access, equity and security in the face of climate change and other disruptions. In my brief talk I presented a few lessons from a collaborative modeling exercise and interviews with Seattle-area resource managers, highlighting a range of perspectives about what a sustainable future for food, energy and water systems management should look like. While I don’t necessarily believe that we can ‘hack’ our way to an optimal food system overnight, using data to understand the competing values and visions that drive policy and business decisions, identify ‘tipping points’, and model strategies for resilient management is extremely valuable.”

The event culminated with presentations from 12 teams. Thomson Reuters data scientist Liz Roman, NU Professor and GRI Faculty Affiliate Christopher Bosso and NU Data Visualization Expert Steven Braun served as judges, and selected first, second and third-prize winners, based on the projects’ creativity and practicality.

To learn more about the projects and the event, click here for the full article from Storybench, a digital storytelling site from the NU School of Journalism’s graduate program.