Feeding America embarked on the Map the Meal Gap study to identify the need for food within each of the communities across the nation. The goal of this study was to provide a clearer picture of need in southwest Missouri in order to help Ozarks Food Harvest strategically plan for food assistance programs that best support Ozarkers in need.
Updated data unveiled April 2012
With updated Map the Meal Gap data in hand, Ozarks Food Harvest has learned that the need for food assistance in the Ozarks continues to be too high. Nearly 173,000 individuals living in southwest Missouri, or 16%, continue to face food insecurity. They are unsure of where their next meal will come from and unfortunately, 24% of these individuals have income levels that disqualify them from receiving government assistance.
Families in Shannon, Wright, Douglas and Oregon Counties struggle with hunger the most. Nearly 40% of the food insecure families in both Christian and Pulaski Counties are not eligible for any federal assistance. There is no government safety net to help them through this hard time. These children, families and seniors would undoubtedly struggle even more without help from Ozarks Food Harvest.
Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity
Thanks to Feeding America, the Map the Meal Gap 2012 Child Food Insecurity study has been updated. The study focuses on food insecurity rates of children and their access to government assistance programs. Based on 2010 data, it has been revealed that 24.3% (62,890) of southwest Missouri children face food insecurity. That’s 1 in 4 children—and higher than the Missouri average of 22.7%—who face uncertainty finding their next meal and may go to bed hungry.
In Shannon County and Wright County, 31.2% and 31.0%, respectively, of all children worry about where their next meal will come from. Fortunately, many of these children eat free meals at school and their families receive SNAP (food stamps) and WIC benefits; however, nearly one-third (28%) of food insecure Ozarks children are not eligible. That means more than 17,600 Ozarks children must rely on charitable assistance, such as Ozarks Food Harvest, to eat their next meal.
This study demonstrated that federal child nutrition programs are not currently reaching all the food insecure children across Ozarks Food Harvest’s service area. In Christian County and Greene County, 42% and 33%, respectively, of all hungry children do not qualify for any form of government assistance. Although hunger is harmful to any individual, it is particularly devastating to children. Their increased vulnerability and potential for long-term consequences makes this issue imperative to address. Food insecurity among children impacts cognitive development, school performance and has health consequences, including increased illness and higher associated health costs.
Learn who is hungry. Check out the interactive map:
The findings of the Map the Meal Gap study has been supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Nielson Company and the ConAgra Foods Foundation. Findings are based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2009 American Community Survey, and food price data from the Nielson Company. For information on how the Map the Meal Gap data was produced, please see the Data Explanation or view the full Technical Brief.
For additional information, see Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study or contact Denise Gibson, Development Director, or Cassie Hanson, Research Development Coordinator, at (417) 865-3411.