Data Hunt: Food Pantries

Team: Mary Delaney, Edwin Zhang

We began by selecting a dataset on food banks and food pantries in the city of Boston. This data set included the names, addresses, and hours for food pantries throughout the city. In total, it had eighty-three unique food pantries and food banks.

One interesting fact that we noticed in looking at the data is that many of the food pantries were centralized to a few zip codes. Over one-quarter of all the listed food pantries were located in either the 02118 or 02139 zip codes, corresponding to Boston and Cambridge, respectively.

When looking at the data, we sought to answers three questions.

  1. How are food pantries distributed geographically throughout the Boston area?
  2. How do food pantry locations compare with the locations where food is grown?
  3. How does food pantry density compare with the income of an area?

To answer the first question, we only looked at the Food Pantries dataset. We found that the food pantries were distributed among twenty-seven zip codes. However, further examination showed that twenty-three of the eighty-three food pantries are localized to two zip codes, and fourteen zip codes had only one food pantry. On average, there were about three food pantries per zip code.

Answering the second question required finding an additional dataset that contained information about where food is grown. We found this data in the Urban Orchards dataset on the Boston City Data Portal. Urban orchards aren’t intended for large-scale food production, but rather indicate a community emphasis on growing fruit trees for learning or preservation.

We then reduced the data to the number of food banks and the number of urban orchards in each zip code. Using zip code for location revealed that that urban orchards were also largely localized to a few zip codes, much like food pantries were. However, urban orchards and food pantries were centralized in different locations. In addition, five zip codes that contained food pantries did not have any urban orchards.

By graphing the data, we can also see a vague relationship with the number of urban orchards and the number of urban orchards by area. Generally, areas with more food pantries have urban orchards.


Screenshot 2015-03-03 12.58.08



This seems to also indicate that food pantries also exist where a sense of community is more prevalent – as the upkeep of both urban orchards and food pantries take the willpower of a community.

We looked at getting income information by zip code from, which provides information like median household income and population around Boston and Cambridge. While the page exists as a map, the information is provided also in text form and can be scraped and then compared to both the data on urban orchards and food pantries.



Food Pantries (

Urban Orchards (

Boston Income (


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