Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, released new findings from their annual study, Map the Meal Gap, now in its sixth year. Map the Meal Gap is a detailed analysis of food insecurity that drills down to the county level. Feeding America undertook the Map the Meal Gap study to learn more about the face of hunger at the local community level.
The annual study measures the population affected by food insecurity and the factors that contribute to need in households across the country, including weekly food-budget shortfalls, demographics, poverty levels, unemployment rates and the cost of food. The information is provided in an interactive map that allows viewers to learn more about the residents struggling with hunger in their community and the food banks that serve them.
Key Findings: Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
Overall Food Insecurity Rate
- The average county food-insecurity rate in the United States is 14.7 percent, meaning that an estimated 1 in 7 Americans struggles with hunger. Second Harvest’s rate of 14.6 falls just below the national average, but 1 in 7 Middle Tennesseans in our 46-country service area remain at risk of hunger. While the rate has decreased since 2011, the prevalence of food insecurity across counties, including Tennessee, remains historically high since 2008, and has not yet returned to pre-Great Recession levels.
- A total of 397,150 individuals are food insecure within Second Harvest’s 46-country service area in Middle and West Tennessee.
- Within Second Harvest’s 46-county service area, Gibson County has the highest food insecurity rate of 17.9 percent and Williamson County has the lowest rate of 8.2 percent.
- 29 percent of individuals in food insecure households have incomes above 185 percent of the poverty line, making them likely to be ineligible for federal food assistance programs, emphasizing the importance of charitable food assistance. This is an increase of 1 percentage point from last year, and it is 3 percentage points higher than the national average.
- Food-insecure individuals estimate needing an additional $17.24 per week to buy enough food to meet their nutritional needs, which is up $0.80. The national food budget shortfall is $24.6 billion, including $207,693,000 within Second Harvest’s service area – the highest since this study began in 2011.
- The average cost per meal is $2.96, up from $2.82 last year and more than the $2.89 national average.
Child Food Insecurity Rate
- 1 in 5 children, 21.9 percent, in Second Harvest’s 46-county service area are food insecure, totaling 141,710 children.
- The child food insecurity rate remains more than 7 percentage points higher than the overall food-insecurity rate. Although food insecurity is harmful to an individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences.
- Within Second Harvest’s 46-county service area, Wayne County has the highest child food insecurity rate of 28.9 percent and Williamson County has the lowest rate of 14.6 percent.
- Humphreys County is the only county with a higher child food insecurity rate year over year with a .1 percentage point increase to 24.7 percent.
- 27 percent of food insecure children are likely not income-eligible for federal nutrition assistance.