FORT PEIRCE — For the 13th year, Feeding America has published its landmark research study, Map the Meal Gap, which once again finds that food insecurity exists in all 3,143 counties and county equivalents as well as 436 congressional districts in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Map the Meal Gap is the only study that provides local-level estimates of food insecurity and food costs across the United States. This year’s county estimates indicate 12.5 million or 1 in 3 individuals experiencing food insecurity may not be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), after accounting for state-specific gross income limits.
The estimates released reflect data from 2021, a year in which SNAP benefits increased by 20% for recipients. SNAP Emergency Allotments that have now expired, the adjustments to the Thrifty Food Plan, and other supports, like the Child Tax Credit which ended at the close of 2021, all reduced poverty and were critical in supporting our neighbors in need. The enhanced benefit levels, along with other social supports, were likely reasons why food insecurity for the overall population reached historically low levels.
“In 2021, we saw food insecurity decline due in great part to an unprecedented response from the charitable food sector and government nutrition programs,” said Tom Summerfelt, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer of Feeding America. “A strong public and private response to the pandemic helped mitigate national food insecurity from rising significantly in 2020, with many of those response efforts continuing in 2021. This release of Map the Meal Gap comes at a critical time, as most COVID-era programs that supported those in need have now expired. That, coupled with elevated levels of inflation, may be a recipe for food insecurity to increase again if we do not expand efforts to ensure everyone has access to the food and resources they need to thrive.”
Treasure Coast Food Bank is one of 200 food banks that are part of Feeding America’s nationwide food bank network. At the local level, Map the Meal Gap finds that food insecurity rates on the Treasure Coast are 11.3%. Food insecurity rates are higher among Black residents at 19% and Hispanic residents at 13%, compared to 7% among white, non-Hispanic residents. Roughly 30% of the food insecure population does not qualify for SNAP benefits.
“The last three years have been especially hard on Treasure Coast residents as they navigate cost of living increases, the end of emergency SNAP allotments and the rising cost of groceries,” said Judith Cruz, President and CEO of Treasure Coast Food Bank. “We are committed to keeping our neighbors above the water and to continually provide resources that benefit their overall health and wellness. There are many factors that affect food insecurity, and we offer wraparound resources to assist in ending hunger through programs for all ages, including Healthy Options for the Elderly, Your Plate Health & Wellness Center and job training.”
Other key findings of Map the Meal Gap include:
• In 2021, 9.5% of the population age 50 to 59, or 3.8 million older adults were food insecure.
Dr. Craig Gundersen, Snee Family Endowed Chair at the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty and a Professor in the Department of Economics at Baylor University and a member of Feeding America’s Technical Advisory Group is the lead researcher of Map the Meal Gap. The study is supported by Conagra Brands Foundation and NielsenIQ.
Map the Meal Gap provides the following data online through an interactive map:
• The estimated prevalence of food insecurity among the overall and child populations for every U.S. state, county, and congressional district, as well as the service area of each Feeding America food bank.
• The estimated food insecurity prevalence for Black, Latino, and white communities where sufficient sample sizes have allowed estimates to be generated.
Map the Meal Gap was awarded the 2021 Policy Impact Award by the American Association for Public Opinion Research. The full suite of Map the Meal Gap research from Feeding America allows policymakers, state agencies, corporate partners, food banks and advocates to develop integrated strategies to fight hunger on a community level.
To explore the various research tools and briefs available from Feeding America, visit feedingamerica.org/research. For more information about Treasure Coast Food Bank and how to help end hunger on the Treasure Coast visit stophunger.org.