Visualizing the impact of climate change and other shocks to Boston’s food system

Update: Teams and Presentations

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Presentation outline

No more than 5 slides. No more than 5 minutes.

How will projects be judged?

Thomson Reuters data scientist Liz Roman, Northeastern professor Christopher Bosso and Northeastern data visualization expert Steven Braun will judge projects on the following criteria:


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

On the weekend of November 10th and 11th, Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media and Design and the Global Resilience Institute will host Sourcing Boston, a hackathon where participants will explore data – from economic to environmental science to urban planning – to tell compelling stories and draw insights about food insecurity, economic disruption and resilience.

This event, in partnership with Thomson Reuters Labs, Red Tomato, and Project Bread, and with support from RStudio, Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute and TCB Analytics, will challenge participants to leverage data, analytics and visualization to find new ways of telling stories and deriving insights about how climate change and other shocks can disrupt food systems, supply chains and basic infrastructure in Boston.

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The hackathon will start with coffee, snacks and lightning talks in Behrakis Hall 010 (30 Leon Street, Boston), and then move to breakout sessions in Ryder Hall rooms 399, 399A, 403 and 405.

map of 30 Leon St Boston

view on google maps

Lunches, snacks and drinks will be provided throughout the weekend.



project directions

Participants are encouraged to team up, and to compose teams of people from different backgrounds and skillsets. Prizes will be awarded for projects that tackle the following:

1. Food supply chain chokepoints

How does Boston-area food get here? Where are the distribution centers? How much, and what kinds of our food are locally sourced? What would happen to our current supply chain if sea levels rise or another disruptive event befalls the city?

2. Food desert exploration

Access to good, affordable food isn’t a feature of every neighborhood. Which ones have the best, and which ones the least? How do we measure access to food - in number of groceries and their distance? What about how much time it takes to access food? What about its level of healthiness?

3. Changing weather patterns

Climate change is already altering seasonal patterns, ocean surface temperature, the number and intensity of tropical storms, and polar ice. How do these changes affect our ability to produce and transport food? Which crops - among the ones we import the most, and the ones we produce the most - are most vulnerable to climate change? How will Massachussets farms and fisheries be affected?

4. Comparative costs of food

For residents of the greater Boston area, how much do we spend on food in relation to our incomes? For those who have difficulty accessing good quality food, what other costs are associated with that? How much food is wasted, where and when?

5. Relative food wealth

When it comes to food availability, quality and cost, how does Boston compare to other urban areas, either in the US or globally? Where are we doing better than other places? What cities are doing something we could learn from?

6. Custom project

Participants may choose to pursue a custom project. Check in with judges and coaches to make sure it’s eligible for a prize!

data sets

see the full listing of data sets here

code of conduct

If someone is behaving below these expectations and you can’t resolve the issue, please contact the hackathon organizers at any of the following email addresses:

tools and languages

Feel free to use any programming languages or tools you’re familiar with, or that you know work well. If you need a few suggestions:

data processing and analysis

visualization and design



How will projects be judged?

On Sunday at 1pm, Thomson Reuters data scientist Liz Roman, Northeastern professor Christopher Bosso and Northeastern data visualization expert Steven Braun will judge projects on the following criteria:


Over $1500 of prizes and giveaways will be given out, including Fire HD 8 Tablets, a GoPro Hero3+ camera, Anker Soundcore Bluetooth speakers, Amazon Echo Dots and many more!


Participants will be asked to share their work by uploading code, data and design artifacts to github.

sponsors and partners

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