Food Insecurity Rising Despite Economic Improvements

food insecurity
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New research from Feeding America shows that people facing food insecurity are having to tighten their belts even further – and that people currently facing hunger are not likely to reach an acceptable level of food security any time soon.

The research found that since 2008, the “meal gap” – or meals missing from the homes of the food insecure – has increased by 13 percent.

“It is disheartening to realize that millions of hardworking, low-income Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to feed themselves and their families at the same time that our economy is showing many signs of improvement, including a substantial decline in the number of people who are unemployed,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America.

This is the seventh year that the nonprofit has conducted its Map the Meal Gap study.

The research shows that food insecurity exists in every county in the nation, with rates as high as 38 percent in Jefferson County, Mississippi. Food-insecure individuals face an average of a food budget shortfall of $17.01 a week, up from $16.56 last year, according to the research.

“Things are still really though,” says Feeding America’s Ross Fraser. “I think any food banks that you would talk to would say demand right now is as high as it’s ever been. So there has been no decline.”

Children are at a greater risk of going hungry, with 21 percent of children facing food insecurity as compared to 14 percent of the general population nationwide.

Prior to the development of the Map the Meal Gap project, food insecurity was often estimated based on local poverty rates. However, USDA data has shown that 57 percent of people facing food insecurity earn more than the federal poverty level.

“This study underscores the need for strong federal nutrition programs as well of the importance of charitable food assistance programs, especially the food pantries and meal programs served by the Feeding America network of food banks,” says Aviv.

According to Modern Diplomacy, global food insecurity affects over 108 million people worldwide, a 35 percent increase from 2015.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.