(OKLAHOMA CITY) – May 2, 2019 – The child food insecurity rates in central and western Oklahoma are higher than the overall food insecurity rates in the United States, according to Map the Meal Gap 2019. The study is the latest report by Feeding America® on food insecurity and the cost of food at both the county and congressional district level. It is the only U.S. study that provides food insecurity data at the local level.
Map the Meal Gap 2019 reveals that food insecurity exists in each of the 53 counties in the Regional Food Bank’s service area. It also shows that children are more likely to be food insecure, with the child food insecurity rate at 20.9 percent compared to 15 percent for the overall population for central and western Oklahoma. Nationwide, the child food insecurity rate is 17 percent while the overall population rate is 12.5 percent.
“No child should have to worry about where their next meal will come from," said Katie Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of the Regional Food Bank. "Support from our communities is important in continuing the work of the Regional Food Bank. For every one dollar donated we are able to provide four meals to chronically hungry children, seniors on a limited income and hardworking families working to makes ends meet."
Overall, food insecurity in the Regional Food Bank’s 53-county service area in central and western Oklahoma ranges from a low of 9.4 percent in Texas County up to 19.5 percent in Payne County.
The analysis also finds that 35 percent of Oklahoma residents who are food insecure are likely ineligible for federal nutrition assistance under current program requirements. This means that many households must rely even more on charitable food assistance from the Regional Food Bank and their community-based partner agencies.
The Regional Food Bank's Food for Kids Programs, including the Backpack Program, provided more than 2.3 million meals for chronically hungry children last year. The Backpack Program provides kid-friendly, nutritious food to elementary school children who are identified by school staff as food insecure. The program provides food to children to last them through weekends and long holiday breaks. The Regional Food Bank must purchase all food provided through the Backpack Program to ensure that it is kid-friendly and meets child nutrition guidelines.
“There isn’t a single state or county in America free from child hunger, and it is within our collective power to change that and ensure that today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, chief executive officer of Feeding America. “The Feeding America nationwide network of food banks is investing in our nation’s future by helping to provide over 146 million meals to children every year. Still, Map the Meal Gap highlights that more must be done. Together food banks, corporations, policymakers, donors, volunteers and advocates can solve hunger.
“I encourage everyone to visit the website, map.feedingamerica.org, to find out what hunger looks like in their community and get involved to be part of the solution,” Babineaux-Fontenot continued. “One way is to tell Congress to invest in kids during Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation and increase access to food for kids during the summer. Your voice matters and we can make a difference.”
The Regional Food Bank is a member of Feeding America’s hunger-relief network comprised of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs that together provides food assistance to more than 40 million people in the United States struggling with hunger. Last year, the Regional Food Bank distributed 50 million pounds of food to more than 1,250 community-based partner agencies.
Map the Meal Gap 2019 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.
The study’s findings underscore the extent of need that remains in communities in central and western Oklahoma and across the U.S., despite national measures from the USDA that indicate overall improvement.
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 2019.
This is the ninth consecutive year that Feeding America has conducted the Map the Meal Gap study.
The Map the Meal Gap 2019 interactive map allows policymakers, state agencies, corporate partners, food banks and advocates to develop integrated strategies to fight hunger on a community level.
A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available at map.feedingamerica.org.
Join the conversation about Map the Meal Gap 2019 on Twitter using #MealGap.