Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization, today released Map the Meal Gap 2014, a detailed analysis of food insecurity for every county in the US. It is the only study available that provides county–level estimates of food insecurity in the United States.
Feeding America's annual study measures the population affected by food insecurity (defined by the USDA as a socioeconomic condition of limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life) and the factors that contribute to need in households across the country. Weekly food-budget shortfalls, demographics, poverty levels and unemployment rates are all considered in the Map the Meal Gap 2014 results.
"Hunger is a pervasive and solvable problem plaguing every corner of America today," said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. "By continuing to provide extensive and revealing data like the 2014 Map the Meal Gap study, we will be able to tackle these issues head-on and be armed with the information needed to work towards making sure everyone has enough to eat."
The information is provided in an interactive map that allows viewers to find out how widespread hunger is in their community. The map can be found at feedingamerica.org/mapthegap.
Among the key findings:
- Counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are more likely to be found in rural areas than in metropolitan regions.
- On average, food-insecure individuals reported needing an additional $15.82 per person per week in 2012 to buy enough food for their household.
- Among the fifty states and the District of Columbia, the highest rate of child food insecurity is 29 percent in New Mexico.
- There are 18 high food-insecurity counties that also have high meal costs - they fall into both the top 10% for highest food-insecurity rates and highest cost per meal - an average of more than one in every five individuals (22%) in these counties is food insecure.
- Ninety-three percent of counties with a majority African-American population (n=101) fall within the top 10 percent of food-insecure counties. These counties have an average poverty rate of 29 percent, nearly double the national average of all counties (16 percent).
- The number of American Indian counties that fall within the top 10% of food-insecure counties rose, now representing more than 60% of counties that are majority American Indian.
- While Los Angeles County, California had the highest number of food-insecure individuals (1.6 million), Humphreys County in Mississippi holds the highest food-insecurity rate in the country at 33%.
Research for the study was generously supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, ConAgra Foods Foundation and Nielsen.
"It should be a wake-up call to us all that nearly 50 million of our neighbors are at risk of hunger in the United States, a country with the most productive farmers helping to feed the world," said Howard G. Buffett, Chairman & CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. "Research like Map the Meal Gap is critical to organizations like the Feeding America network of food banks and agencies as they work to develop the most effective solutions for addressing hunger in every community in America."
The Map the Meal Gap 2014 analysis was developed by Dr. Craig Gundersen for Feeding America. Food-insecurity rates are based on a state-level model that allows for estimation of the population in need of food at the county and congressional district level. Additionally, Feeding America worked in collaboration with Nielsen to arrive at estimates for food-cost variation by county. Results were reviewed by the Feeding America Technical Advisory Group in order to ensure accuracy and promote transparency.
A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available at feedingamerica.org/mapthegap.