Map the Meal Gap
In order to address the problem of hunger, we must first understand it. Feeding America undertook the Map the Meal Gap project to learn more about hunger at the local community level. By understanding the population in need, communities can better identify strategies for reaching the people who most need food assistance.
At Feeding America, our mission is to feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger. Although we seek to meet the needs of food insecure individuals and families, it is not always easy to identify the need for food within each of our communities. Traditionally, Feeding America has used state and national level USDA food insecurity data to estimate the need (e.g. “49 million Americans are at risk of hunger in 2012”), but food banks are rooted in their local communities and need better information at the ground level in order to be responsive to their unique local conditions.
Until now, the number of people falling below the federal poverty threshold has been the indicator most typically used for identifying the need for food at the local level because it is one of the few indicators available at the county level. However, national food insecurity data reveal that about 57% of those struggling with hunger actually have incomes above the federal poverty level and 59% of poor households are food secure. Thus, measuring need based on local poverty rates alone provides an incomplete illustration of the potential need for food assistance within our communities. More accurate assessments of need across all income levels within our service areas can assist Feeding America and our network of food banks in strategic planning for charitable food services that best support Americans facing hunger, as well as inform the public policy discussion so that vital federal nutrition programs can better serve those in need. Most importantly, better community-level data can serve as an important resource for engaging community leaders and partners in the journey from aspiration (ending hunger) to achievement through a quantifiable and data-driven approach.
Please note that in 2013, homeownership rates from the American Community Survey were added to the MMG statistical model to serve as a proxy for household assets. assets are a known factor that can help insulate households from the effects of poverty. Given the limited data available at the county level specific to assets, county homeownership rates are currently the best available substitute. Statistical tests reveal that the addition of this variable strengthens the accuracy of the estimates overall. Please see the technical brief for more details regarding the methodology. Additionally, because congressional districts were redrawn in 2012 and the most current data from the ACS reflects the former district boundaries, the MMG 2013 estimates do not correspond with the current congressional districts. Because of this limited relevancy, the congressional district results are not discussed in the MMG 2013 report or provided in state maps as in previous years.
Overall Executive Summary
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Get the full 2009 Executive Summary [PDF]
Read the child food insecurity Executive Summary.