For the tenth consecutive year, Feeding America conducted our annual Map the Meal Gap study to improve our understanding of companion study and interactive map that illustrate the projected impact of the pandemic on local food insecurity in 2020. To better assess the current and future state of local food insecurity, it is critical to understand historical variations prior to the pandemic. Only then can we develop effective strategies to reach people at risk of hunger.and food costs at the local level. The most recent release is based on data from 2018. In response to COVID-19, we also released a 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 Conagra Brands Foundation and Nielsen, 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 briefs, access local food insecurity data or learn about our methodology.
The map was updated on August 17th, 2020 to address an underlying discrepancy in the estimated number and percentage of children living in food-insecure households with incomes below and above 185% of the federal poverty level as of 2018. While this update does affect all counties, congressional districts and states, it does not affect the total number or percentage of children in food-insecure households, nor does it affect any of the estimates for the overall population.
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, 32% of food-insecure households live above 185% of the poverty line. Note below, however, that 185% of the poverty level is only $48,470 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 - $3.09.
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 their food needs - $17.24. To calculate the total additional money required to meet food needs in 2018, 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