2018 Map the Meal Gap study shows more than 91,000 struggle with hunger
High food cost contributes to ‘Meal Gap’
Food costs continue to rise on the Treasure Coast, and a significant portion of the population continues to be left behind by the nation’s booming economy, leaving them without enough food for an active, healthy life. The data released today by Feeding America in the 2018 Map the Meal Gap study also shows a disturbing trend that those food-insecure people on the Treasure Coast are more deeply entrenched in poverty.
According to Map the Meal Gap 2018, 14.5 percent – 91,480 people – don’t always know where their next meal will come from. That total includes 26,610 children. The total is down slightly from the previous year by 2,670. Among Treasure Coast children, the percentage rises to 21.9 who are food-insecure.
Of all the food-insecure people, 73 percent make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level and are eligible for food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
“One of the most significant trends we’ve seen in Map the Meal Gap is the continual increase in the percentage of food-insecure people falling deeper into poverty,” said Judith Cruz, President and CEO of Treasure Coast Food Bank. “Many of these are working poor who often work more than one job, but because of the high cost of living and low wages still need help to put food on their tables.”
This is the eighth consecutive year that Feeding America has conducted the Map the Meal Gap study. The most recent study shows that the average cost of a meal on the Treasure Coast continues to rise. At $3.33 in the most recent study, it’s up an additional 8 cents compared with the previous year’s data, and well above the overall statewide average of $3.17. In three of the four counties served by Treasure Coast Food Bank, the cost exceeded the state average, and it was significantly higher in Indian River County at $3.56 and Martin County at $3.63.
“When food costs are rising, it takes a bigger portion of a family’s budget to eat, regardless of whether that family gets assistance. We’re very concerned about the potential threat of more individuals losing access to SNAP,” Cruz said. “Just as significant is that nearly a third of food-insecure people are not eligible for benefits, which makes the Food Bank and its partner agencies their only resource.”
Treasure Coast Food Bank and its partner organizations work each day to fill the “meal gap” by providing emergency food. Now marking its 30th year, Treasure Coast Food Bank emphasizes a holistic approach to fighting hunger and poverty by connecting individuals and families to programs and social services that assist them in becoming self-sufficient.
Map the Meal Gap 2018 uses data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and food price data and analysis provided by Nielsen, a global provider of information and insights. The study is supported by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Conagra Brands Foundation and Nielsen.
Dr. Craig Gundersen, Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and a member of Feeding America’s Technical Advisory Group is the lead researcher of Map the Meal Gap 2018.
The study’s findings underscore the depth of need that remains in communities on The Treasure Coast and across the U.S., despite national measures from the USDA that indicate overall improvement. Food insecurity is a measure defined by the USDA as lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. An interactive map is available that allows viewers to explore the issue of hunger on the Treasure Coast and across the country.