Study shows hunger hitting closer to home

Mar 28, 2011

A new study on hunger entitled "Map the Meal Gap" is the first study to identify the county-level distribution of over 50 million food-insecure Americans.

"Until now, we could only compare the data by state," said Craig Gundersen, University of Illinois associate professor of agricultural and consumer economics and executive director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory who led the data analysis on the project. "Having this data by county has the potential to redefine the way service providers and policy makers address areas of need."

Gundersen explained that the term "meal gap" refers to the additional number of meals the food insecure population in the selected area requires to meet their food needs. On the national level, the average cost of a meal is $2.54. The study shows this shortfall represents an estimated $21.3 billion on an annual basis.

"Per person this is only about $56 more each month on average to address the shortages in their food budget," Gundersen said.

Among the key findings of the study is that there are 44 counties in the United States that fall into the top 10 percent categories for both food insecurity and . "These counties struggle with multiple stressors, including high , high poverty, high unemployment and above-average food costs," Gundersen said. At the time the most recent data were collected, on average, one in every four persons in these counties was food insecure and 27 percent lived at or below poverty. The counties are typically rural and one-third are majority African American.

This study also demonstrates the distribution of food-insecure persons who are not eligible for food assistance programs. In Illinois, for example, 41 percent of the almost 2 million people who are identified as being food insecure are also ineligible to receive federal assistance from SNAP, which is limited to people with incomes up to the 130 percent level of federal poverty. (SNAP, The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, was formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.)

A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States showing data for each county, and the full report are available on Feeding America's website at www.feedingamerica.org. The study was funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the Nielsen Co.

The executive summary of the report features additional information that describes how Latinos and American Indians are disproportionately affected by high rates of hunger and high food prices.

Gundersen is also working with James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research to coordinate a research program on childhood hunger with $5.5 million from the USDA.

"In order to address the problem of hunger in our communities, we have to understand it," Gundersen said. "The results from Map the Meal Gap will help researchers to better identify the populations and develop strategies to reach those who are most in need of food assistance."

Explore further: Is UK shale gas extraction posing a risk to public health?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: U.S. food insecurity increasing

Dec 20, 2005

At least 38 million U.S. citizens can't count on having enough food throughout the year -- and Tufts University scientists say the number is increasing.

One in Five American Families Is

Aug 16, 2010

Twenty-one percent of American households with children are “food insecure” - a situation that adversely affects children most - causing poor cognitive development, socio-emotional and health outcomes - according to a ...

MU research team releases first Missouri Hunger Atlas

Feb 22, 2008

More than $1.1 billion a year is spent on public programs in Missouri, yet a new University of Missouri study reports the state has a rising number of people worried about having sufficient amounts of food and coping with ...

Recommended for you

Obama: 8 million signed up for health care (Update)

1 hour ago

President Barack Obama said Thursday 8 million Americans have signed up for health care through new insurance exchanges, besting expectations and offering new hope to Democrats who are defending the law ahead ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...

Study recalculates costs of combination vaccines

One of the most popular vaccine brands for children may not be the most cost-effective choice. And doctors may be overlooking some cost factors when choosing vaccines, driving the market toward what is actually a more expensive ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...