Food Insecurity Data In the News

From Philadelphia to Ohio to South Dakota, food insecurity has been a hot topic in the news since the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its Household Food Security in the United States in 2013 report. For those of you wondering what food insecurity is, it refers to the USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. In light of the focus on this important topic right now, we wanted to take the opportunity to make sure our users are aware of the new food insecurity data on PolicyMap. The data can be found under Additional Income and Spending Data in the Incomes & Spending tab. It comes from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap project.

The data includes the rate of food insecure people and children, as well as the percent of food insecure persons who are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), eligible for other nutrition programs, or not eligible for any nutrition programs. It also includes the rate of food insecure children, as well as the percent of food insecure children who are eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch. And lastly, the data includes the average food budget shortfall as well the average cost per meal (based on the recorded average dollar amount spent on food per week by food secure individuals) in a given area.

In the map below, you can see the food insecurity rate in Philadelphia is very high at 22.1%.

However, while food insecurity rates may be higher in the city than in the surrounding suburbs, a far greater percent of food insecure people in the suburbs are ineligible to qualify for SNAP or other nutrition programs. See below:

As with the USDA’s Household Food Security report, the Map the Meal Gap data is based on survey results from the Census’ Current Population Survey (CPS) Food Security Supplement. The Nielson Company then used a statistical modeling process to translate the survey results to the state, county and congressional district levels. For more detailed information about the methodology used for the Map the Meal Gap data, see this Technical Brief. Fortunately, the data is anticipated to be updated annually, so keep an eye out on PolicyMap for the 2013 update once it is made available from Feeding America!