Every community in the country is home to people who struggle with hunger. Since federal nutrition programs don’t reach everyone in need, food banks help fill the gap. Learn more about local help end hunger.by exploring data from Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap study. When we better understand hunger, we can Play Map Overview
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Feeding America has published the Map the Meal Gap project since 2011, thanks to the generous support of The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Nielsen, and the Conagra Brands Foundation, to learn more about the face of hunger at the local level.
Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food-insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
Select your state and county from our interactive map above and start learning more about your neighbors struggling with hunger and the food banks that serve them. Read more about the findings of Map the Meal Gap in our Report, access local food insecurity data tables by state or learn how we got this data.
The income bands shown reflect percentages of the federally established poverty line, which varies based on household size. These percentages are used to set eligibility thresholds for nutrition programs.
Although related, food insecurity and poverty are not the same. According to the USDA, 29% of food-insecure households live above 185% of the poverty line. Note below, however, that 185% of the poverty level is only $47,638 for a family of four. For families with medical expenses or who are located in areas with a high cost-of-living, it’s easy to see how quickly resources can get drained. We know also from Hunger In America 2014 that 16% of households served by the Feeding America network are estimated to be food secure. This may be because they are able to access charitable food resources or participate in federal nutrition programs at times when their own resources are scarce.
Poverty rates are provided as supplemental information to the food-insecurity rates. Poverty rates are determined by the number of members in a household and their annual income.
These rates do not vary from state to state (except in AK and HI), despite significant differences in cost-of-living.
Availability of government support for households varies based (in part) on the household income as it relates to the poverty level. The thresholds shown below apply to the national average; it is important to know that individual states can and have increased their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the food stamps program) thresholds to up to 200% of the poverty level. This increases the number of people who are eligible for SNAP, the cornerstone of the federal nutrition safety net.
*Due to rounding, totals may range from 99-101%
Using actual food sales data, Nielsen created a county-level multiplier to reflect the local cost of food. To develop the average cost of a meal, we use this multiplier to weight the national average amount spent on a meal by the food secure - $3.02.
We also use the county-level multiplier to weight the national average of additional money a food insecure person reports needing per week in order to meet his/her food needs - $16.99. To calculate the total additional money required to meet food needs in 2017, we multiply the weekly amount by the number of food insecure people in the selected geography, then by 52 weeks, and finally by 60% (7/12) – the average portion of the year in which a food insecure person experiences food insecurity.
Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food insecure children are those children living in households experiencing food insecurity.
Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
Select your state and county from our interactive map above and start learning more about the children struggling with hunger and the food banks that serve them.
Feeding America undertook Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity with the generous support of the Conagra Brands Foundation, based on Map the Meal Gap: Food Insecurity Estimates at the County Level supported by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation and The Nielsen Company.
*Due to rounding, totals may range from 99-101%
Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, food insecurity is particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences. Several studies have demonstrated that food insecurity impacts cognitive development among young children and is linked to poorer school performance. Other data show the health consequences of food insecurity among children, including increased illness and higher associated health costs.
The structural foundation for cognitive functioning is laid in early childhood, creating the underlying circuitry on which more complex processes are built. This foundation can be greatly affected by food insecurity. Inadequate nutrition can permanently alter a child’s brain architecture and stunt their intellectual capacity, affecting the child’s learning, social interaction, and productivity. Children who do not receive what they need for strong, healthy brain development during early childhood may never recover their lost potential for cognitive growth and eventual contributions to society.*
* National Scientific Council on the Developing Child