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Map the Meal Gap - national mapUnprecedented New Study Paints a Detailed Portrait of Food Insecurity in Kansas

WICHITA – March 24, 2011 - The Kansas Food Bank and Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, today released a landmark study, “Map the Meal Gap,” providing the first detailed look at the food budget needed by families struggling with hunger here in Kansas each year – an estimated $164,968,840.

The study takes a look at ‘meals’ in a whole new way, using county-level data on food costs from The Nielsen Company to break down the food budget shortfall of our residents into an approximation of the meals missing from the tables of people at risk of hunger in Kansas each year.

Map the Meal Gap provides the following data for Kansas in an interactive map format:

  • The percentage of the Kansas population who is food insecure.
  • The percentage of the food insecure population in Kansas who qualify based on income for SNAP (Foods Stamps) and other federal nutrition programs.
  • The percentage of the food insecure population in Kansas  who do NOT qualify for federal nutrition programs and often must rely on charitable food assistance programs and who also need better wages and employment opportunities to help them meet their basic needs.
  • The average price per meal in Kansas, based on new research by The Nielsen Company.

Map the Meal Gap - selected chartsThe interactive map will, for the first time, allow policy makers, state agencies, corporate partners and individual advocates to develop integrated strategies to fight hunger on a community by community level.

According to Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey data analyzed as part of “Map the Meal Gap”, people struggling with hunger estimate they would need about $56 more each month on average during the months that they are food insecure to address the shortages in their food budget.  On a county by county level, “Map the Meal Gap” shows that this shortfall represents an estimated 66,252,546 meals in Kansas on an annual basis.

“Map the Meal Gap” also provides critical information that has never been previously available — food insecurity rates for Congressional District. Previously, food insecurity data was only available at the state level in the USDA’s annual report. The study further analyzes each district’s food insecure population to determine their income eligibility for federal nutrition assistance. This data has the potential to redefine the way service providers and policy makers address areas of need.

The findings of “Map the Meal Gap” are based on statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, and food price data from The Nielsen Company. The study was supported by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation and Nielsen.

“Map the Meal Gap” was conducted using well-established, transparent methods. Data were analyzed by Feeding America in partnership with Dr. Craig Gundersen, Associate Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and member of Feeding America’s Technical Advisory Group.


Landmark New Study Reveals Hunger’s Effects on Kansans
(Download full Hunger in American local report in PDF format)

Hunger Report ChartsWICHITA – Feb. 2, 2010 – A landmark study released today by the Kansas Food Bank and Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, reports that nearly 200,000 Kansans  — a third of whom are children – receive emergency food each year through the nation’s network of food banks and the agencies they serve.

Hunger in America 2010” is the first research study to capture the significant connection between the current economic downturn and an increased need for emergency food assistance. The results are based on interviews last year with Food Bank clients, including those who use pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.

In the 85 counties served by the Kansas Food Bank, about 40 percent of adult clients reported going a whole day without eating because of lack of money for food; nearly half reported eating less, or skipping meals entirely, every month because of financial difficulties. Roughly 17 percent of Food Bank clients also reported that children “sometimes” or “often” went without eating because there wasn’t enough money for food.

Brian Walker, CEO of the Kansas Food Bank, said he was not surprised by the findings: “We have been dealing with 20 to 30 percent increases in demand for emergency food supplies for some time.

“What we do fear,” said Walker, “is that these numbers may not tell the whole story, as the economic downturn really hit us hard after this study was undertaken.” Kansas Food Bank clients were interviewed February through June 2009, as massive job losses were driving up Wichita’s unemployment rate but before that rate peaked at 10 percent in July 2009.

The Kansas Food Bank conducted face-to-face interviews with 383 people seeking emergency food at food pantries, soup kitchens and other emergency feeding programs, as well as interviews with 230 agencies that provide food assistance.

Nationally, Feeding America collected quantitative and qualitative feedback from 61,000 face-to-face in-depth interviews with people seeking emergency food assistance and more than 37,000 agency surveys, making this study the largest, most-comprehensive ever conducted on domestic hunger.

A snapshot of findings shows that Kansas Food Bank clients come from all ethnic groups and include the unemployed and working poor:

  • Among those receiving food from the Kansas Food Bank, nearly 60 percent are white, 23 percent black, 12 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent other;
  • 1 in 3 households has at least one adult employed full-time;
  • 2 in 3 adult clients have a high school diploma or better;
  • 80 percent are making below the federal poverty limit, or about $18,000 a year for a family of three;
  • $750 is the average monthly household income from all sources – including job, Social Security, welfare and disability payments.

These economic conditions create difficult choices for most Food Bank clients. Survey results found:

  • 45 percent of clients have had to choose between paying the mortgage or rent, and buying food; 20 percent were late on the previous month’s mortgage and 13 percent said they currently had no place to live.
  • 43 percent of clients have had to choose between transportation and food; 37 percent do not have a working car;
  • And 36 percent have had to choose between medicine or medical care and food; a quarter have a family member in poor health, a third don’t have any health insurance coverage, and over half have unpaid medical bills.
  • 54 percent have had to choose between paying for utilities and food.

“If there can be any good n news here, it is that we are able to provide food assistance to these thousands of people affected by food insecurity; people are getting help,” said Walker of the Kansas Food Bank. “Thanks to all of those who have supported the Food Bank and we ask them for continued support so we can keep providing for their basic food needs.” Every dollar donated to the Food Bank not only provides enough food for nearly for meals; it can also save a family several dollars for rent, car repairs or doctor bills.

A summary of the findings is available at www.kansasfoodbank.org/hunger-statistics The full national report is available on Feeding America’s web site at www.feedingamerica.org/hungerstudy.

Kansas is among the top 10 states with the worst hunger problems.

  • Kansas has the 7th highest percentage of residents who are either cutting back on the quantity and quality of food, or skipping meals entirely.
  • 53,000 households reported regularly skipping meals in 2007. Going hungry adversely affects everyone, but growing children are especially vulnerable to the effects.
  • Kids who don’t get enough to eat are more likely to struggle in school, four times more likely to need mental health counseling, seven times more likely to get into fights and 12 times more likely to steal.

Contributing factors to the hunger crisis in Kansas:

  • 300,000 Kansans were living in poverty in 2007; 100,000 of these were Kansas children.
  • 187,000 received state food assistance — but the average benefit was less than $94 per month.

The current numbers can be assumed to be much worse:

  • Consider that 34,000 jobs have been eliminated since the beginning of 2008;
  • The number of unemployed people nearly doubled over the same period, reaching 106,000.
  • Demands for food have risen 30 to 40 percent over a year ago.

More information on hunger in Kansas can be found at these websites:
Food Resource and Action Center
Kansas Action for Children
Feeding America