For federal grant applications, specific geographical areas and populations often have to meet minimum qualifications in order to demonstrate a need that allows them to apply for a grant (e.g. median family income 120% or below the HHS poverty guideline).

More advanced and accessible technologies have made it such that you can see what areas meet certain standards, as well as the individual components that make up these standards. This is the case with the USDA Food Access Research Atlas.

However, there is one piece of the puzzle in the case of food deserts that is proprietary data (documentation here). This an example, where a list of supermarkets is made up, in part, from the Trade Dimensions TDLinx directory of stores.

Do the new U.S. government open data standards require that this type of data be made available (even if only in part) to users/groups trying to determine their funding eligibility?

Part of the reason this is of particular interest is because people "on the ground" are able to verify information and, on some occasions, determine whether a given area's eligibility may have changed due to store closure etc.

  • I realize that, as it is written, this is quite a specific scenario and would appreciate any help in trying to 'generalize' this question to make it of use to a broader population/audience. Commented May 21, 2013 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


There are two aspects I see to this question: (1) access to proprietary data, and (2) ability to crowdsource the verification of any data.

For the first, proprietary data from private companies is sometimes made available as open or restricted data. Some companies' business model is based on selling this data, and some companies will offer at least a small portion of their data openly. In only very specific cases, does the government ask for data directly from companies (incorporation data, financial regulations, etc.). However, there are some interesting examples related to your question about supermarkets:

As to the second, there are some great examples of crowdsourcing the validation of open data. USAID did so for food security and Google Earth did the same for crowdsourcing land grabbing in Ethiopia. These both were well received and validated lots of data that would have been very difficult and costly to gather traditionally.

  • You are very right about the two-parter nature of this question. The examples you gave of crowdsourcing validation of food security data are great examples of how valuable this can be (especially with issues pertaining to access to resources). The new Food Access Research Atlas (versus the old Food Desert Locator) makes it much easier to understand and communicate the elements of an area's food desert-ness even without the supermarket data. I guess it just underscores the importance of transparency with data underlying funding eligibility. Commented May 21, 2013 at 19:27
  • Would the new E.O. change the guidelines around how accessible the underlying metrics for something like the Food Access Research Atlas have to be? Would localized portions of the data be FOIA-able? Commented May 21, 2013 at 19:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.