Feeding America is a network of over 200 food banks. Through their efforts, 3 billion pounds of food is distributed to roughly 37 million people every year. They just released their annual report, Map the Meal Gap, which examines local food insecurity trends. Information in the 2013 report reflects data from 2011.
To help local food programs measure food insecurity within their communities, Map the Meal Gap provides information on the local level, including every county in the U.S. as well as regions served by particular food banks.
Their current estimates show the food insecurity rate in the U.S. is 16.4%, or a little over 50 million Americans. The national child food insecurity rate is 22.4%, or 16,658,000 children. These numbers stand for people who lack the resources to consistently afford enough nutritious food to live active, healthy lives.
For Oklahoma the report estimates 17.2% of the state population, or approximately 653,820 individuals, struggle with food insecurity. (For specific information on every county in Oklahoma, click here.) The statewide rate is higher than the national average, and shows only a slight improvement over Oklahoma’s 2010 food insecurity rate of 17.7%, or 664,890 individuals.
What is truly troubling is that Oklahoma’s rate of childhood food insecurity is 25.3%, representing 233,350 children. This is higher than the national average and only a slight improvement over Oklahoma’s 2010 rate of 26.6%, representing 244,050 children. The slight improvement from 2010 to 2011 is a step in the right direction, however only 10,700 fewer children are classified as food insecure. What about the other 233,350 children whose healthy development depends on the nutrition they receive in their early years? Their needs can’t wait as we slowly chip away at hunger by decreasing childhood food insecurity by 1 or 2% a year.
For further context, Map the Meal Gap also details which government safety net programs are available for hungry families, an answer depending largely on where household income falls in relation to federal poverty guidelines.
The Feeding American infographic above breaks down the Income Bands for the 653,820 Oklahoman’s facing food insecurity, but in terms of real numbers the percentages represent:
- 254,990 Oklahomans who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, free school meals and other government assistance.
- 98,073 Oklahomans who qualify for reduced school lunches or WIC, but probably not SNAP or free school lunches.
- 300,757 Oklahomans who do NOT qualify for the majority of federal nutrition programs yet still have insufficient means to meet all their nutritional needs.
In Tulsa County specifically, the report estimates 16.9% of the population, or around 100,870 people, can be defined as food insecure. Among this population:
- 47%, or 47,409, are below the threshold of 130% poverty required to qualify for SNAP benefits.
- 18%, or 18,157, are between 130-185% poverty and likely ineligible for SNAP.
- 35%, or 35,305, are above the 185% poverty threshold and therefore unable to qualify for most federal nutrition programs.
For the population above 185% of the poverty line, which includes more than 300,000 Oklahomans, charitable organizations are the mainline of defense against hunger. Food banks are the distribution hubs that help supply these crucial local food programs.
The food insecurity rate for the region served by the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma (CFBEO) is 16.3%, or around 242,270 individuals. In 2012 alone they distributed nearly 15.5 million pounds of food to 450 partner programs in 24 counties across eastern Oklahoma. They also distributed food through the Food for Kids Backpack Program, Kids Café, the Senior Servings Program, and their Mobile Food Pantry.
The amount of assistance provided by food banks is impressive, but it would be impossible without donations of food and money, both from public and private sources. However, the latest CFBEO Report talks about the changing economics of charitable giving, which has seen government commodities shrink and donations from food manufacturers drop off as companies move to “just-in-time” production models that limit the excess food available for donation.
More and more, food banks need to purchase food to meet the growing need. So having the relevant information about local hunger statistics, provided by Map the Meal Gap, is important for planning, fundraising and elevating public awareness.
- For more information about safety net programs, check out the Urban Institute’s Safety Net Almanac.
- Readers can also visit the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma’s website to read about how WPX Energy is matching donations dollar-for-dollar during the month of June 2013.
- Previous posts on hunger that covered the film A Place at the Table can be found by clicking here and you can learn more about Summer Food Programs for children in Northeast Oklahoma by clicking here.