MANNA announces release of 2014 Map the Meal Gap study

Feeding America, a nonprofit, national network of food banks that is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, released their 2014 Map the Meal Gap study, which maps  food insecurity in the United States down to the county-level. The study found that for Western North Carolina food insecurity has increased slightly since last year, reaching a rate of 15.3 percent and affecting approximately 38, 420 children in WNC.

Here’s the full release from MANNA:

MANNA FoodBank announced that the annual Map the Meal Gap results released today show that food insecurity continues to remain high in Western North Carolina. According to the newly released data, the food insecurity rate is 15.3 percent, a slight increase over last year’s data. That estimate includes 38,420 children in the region.

The research separates out children under 18 and compiles data for childhood food insecurity. Nationally, North Carolina ranks 11th in the nation in childhood food insecurity with 26.7% of children struggling to have access to 3 square meals a day.

Map the Meal Gap 2014 is a detailed analysis of food insecurity done by Feeding America and the only study available that provides county–level estimates of food insecurity in the United States. Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as a socioeconomic condition of limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life.

“Studies like Map the Meal Gap 2014 allow MANNA FoodBank to continue to evaluate and adjust to the need in our area,” said Cindy Threlkeld, Executive Director of MANNA. “The research data includes weekly food-budget shortfalls, demographics and poverty levels which help us define the social issues that impact our area and work together as a community to find a solution. Children are of particular concern in our area. In 6 of the 16 counties in our service area the childhood food insecurity rate was over 30%.”

The information is provided in an interactive map that allows viewers to find out how widespread hunger is in their community. The map can be found at .

Other local key findings:
• High food insecurity rate counties are more economically disadvantaged than average. Graham and Swain counties are among the highest in unemployment rates and food insecurity rates.
• The number of food insecure individuals in Western North Carolina is estimated at 108,280, an increase of 3.4 percent over last year’s Map the Meal Gap data.
• The estimated weekly food-budget shortfall per food-insecure person in WNC is $16.58, an increase of 13 percent over last year. This can be attributed to a slight increase in the number of food insecure people coupled with a 5.5% increase of estimated weighted cost per meal in our area. `

Research for the study was generously supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, ConAgra Foods Foundation and Nielsen.

“Hunger is a pervasive and solvable problem plaguing every corner of America today,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. “By continuing to provide extensive and revealing data like the 2014 Map the Meal Gap study, we will be able to tackle these issues head-on and be armed with the information needed to work towards making sure everyone has enough to eat.”

The Map the Meal Gap 2014 analysis was developed by Dr. Craig Gundersen for Feeding America. Food-insecurity rates are based on a state-level model that allows for the population in need of food at the county and congressional district level. Additionally, Feeding America worked in collaboration with Nielsen to arrive at estimates for food-cost variation by county. Results were reviewed by the Feeding America Technical Advisory Group in order to ensure accuracy and promote transparency. A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available

For more information about food insecurity in WNC, consider the following:

“NC policymakers sowing effort to green state’s food deserts,” Carolina Public Press

“Understanding Hunger,”  MANNA Foodbank

• “Together we grow:  How community gardens are raising food and growing community,” Mountain Xpress

• “How to find a food desert near you,” NPR

• “City of Asheville Food Action Plan,” Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council


About Carrie Eidson
Multimedia journalist and Green Scene editor at Mountain Xpress. Part-time Twitterer @mxenv but also reachable at Follow me @carrieeidson

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