Feeding America releases new Map the Meal Gap Study

The extra amount of money that people facing hunger said they need to have enough food reached its highest point in the last 20 years, according to Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap study. At the local level, Map the Meal Gap finds that the average meal cost in West Virginia is now $3.52 (up .38 from the previous year). Facing Hunger Foodbank is one of more than 200 food banks that are part of Feeding America’s nationwide food bank network.

Map the Meal Gap is the only study that provides local-level estimates of food insecurity and food costs for every county and congressional district. The study builds upon the USDA’s latest report of national and state data, which showed a sharp increase in food insecurity in 2022 amidst historically high food prices and the expiration of many pandemic-era programs. Map the Meal Gap emphasizes the urgent call for all of us to take action.

Facing Hunger Foodbank is currently serving about 23% more neighbors than compared to our pre-pandemic numbers.

“The insights from this year’s study confirm what we hear from people facing hunger: elevated food prices are making hunger in America worse,” said Samantha Edwards, Chief Development Officer, FHFB “This powerful tool helps us understand the impact of food insecurity and underlines that we can choose to end hunger in America by coming together as a nation.

Food Insecurity by Geography:

· Estimated food insecurity levels vary across regions, influenced by factors like unemployment and poverty rate as well as policies and practices rooted in history that continue to hold people back today.

· Of the communities Facing Hunger serves, we see food insecurity rates range from a low of 10.1% in Putnam Co. WV to a high of 22.1% in Martin Co. KY.

· Nationally, child food insecurity rates can reach almost 50% in some counties. Here in the tri-state, it can reach as high as 31.2%.

· Rural counties disproportionately experience high levels of food insecurity compared to urban areas. This is true in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, which sees high levels of food insecurity across our rural counties, including right here in the Southern Coalfield region.

Income and Food Spending:

· Nearly 50% of people facing hunger may not qualify for SNAP benefits due to income thresholds. Here in the tri-state, nearly 60% of people facing hunger may not qualify for SNAP.

· In 2022, individuals who were food secure reported spending an average of $3.99 per meal, totaling $83.79 per week or $363.09 per month. Even after adjusting for annual average inflation, the national average cost per meal increased by nearly 3% compared to the previous year, reaching its highest point in the last two decades. To provide context, this reported amount is 1.6 times as high as the average individual cost of the Thrifty Food Plan ($52.70 per week or $228.50 per month as of December 2022), which serves as the basis for calculating the maximum SNAP benefit allotments by the USDA.

Food Insecurity by Race and Ethnicity:

· While nationally nearly 40% of the food insecure population in the U.S. is white, food insecurity rates among Black and Latino individuals exceed those of white individuals in most counties. These disparities are an example of how historical, social, economic and environmental factors have held many communities of color back, creating barriers to food insecurity.

· Racial disparities persist, with significant variations in food insecurity rates across different racial and ethnic groups and geographic locations.

· West Virginia is no exception. While white residents experience a food insecurity rate of 12.0%, the food insecurity rate for black residents is 22%.

The Map the Meal Gap study is supported by Conagra Brands Foundation and NielsenIQ/NIQ. Additional key takeaways from the report can be found on the Map the Meal Gap website along with an interactive map that details food insecurity by geography, income, race and ethnicity.

Methodology:

Map the Meal Gap uses publicly available data from the USDA ERS, U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate local food insecurity at the county, congressional district and state levels. The study also estimates local meal costs and food budget shortfalls using food price data from NIQ based on the USDA Thrifty Food Plan, and grocery sales tax data for every county and state in the country.

To learn how food insecurity impacts your community, visit FeedingAmerica.org/MaptheMealGap. For more information about Facing Hunger Foodbank and how to help end hunger in the tri-state visit www.facinghunger.org

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