While the United States economy has improved and unemployment rates have declined, more than 154,500 people in Southwest Virginia still struggle to meet their basic need for food – including more than 48,900 children.
Food insecurity is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
Of the 26 counties and nine cities served by Feeding America Southwest Virginia (FASWVA), eight have shown a rise in food insecurity for their total populations – Bedford, Craig, Pittsylvania, Tazewell and Wise counties and Danville, Radford and Roanoke cities. Eight municipalities also showed a rise in food insecurity among children under the age of 18 – Bedford, Craig, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Smyth, Tazewell and Wise counties, and Salem city.
Feeding America recently released the Map the Meal Gap 2016 study detailing food insecurity rates in every county and congressional district in the United States.
“While the overall percentage of individuals facing hunger (including children) in Feeding America Southwest Virginia’s service region has declined slightly over the past year, several local municipalities have seen an increase in food insecurity,” says Pamela Irvine, FASWVA’s president and CEO. “We know that food insecurity adversely affects health and wellness outcomes for adults and children and we’ll continue to seek innovative solutions to help bridge the meal gap, especially in these hard-hit areas.”
The three municipalities with the highest percentage of food insecure individuals in FASWVA’s service area were Martinsville (22.6%), Danville (22.5%) and Radford (19.8%) cities. Using data from 2010 to 2014, Map the Meal Gap 2016 is the first Map the Meal Gap report with post-Great Recession county food-insecurity estimates.
The latest numbers from the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization also map out weekly food-budget shortfall – the average amount of money food insecure people report needing in order to have an adequate diet. In Southwest Virginia, that’s $16.56 per week based on an average meal cost of $2.85.
This is the sixth consecutive year that Feeding America has conducted the Map the Meal Gap study. This year’s report found that nearly 15 percent or approximately one in seven people in the United States struggles with hunger at some point during the year. While the rate has decreased since 2011, the prevalence of food insecurity across counties remains historically high since 2008, and has not yet returned to pre-Great Recession levels.
Map the Meal Gap 2016 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 (NYSE: NLSN), a global provider of information and insights. The study is supported by founding sponsor The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, ConAgra Foods Foundation and Nielsen.
A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available at www.feedingamerica.org/mapthegap.
To see food insecurity in just the FASWVA service area, have a look at our interactive map.