Rising cost of food pushes food insecure even farther behind

New Map the Meal Gap study shows money is tighter for those already struggling

ROANOKE – New research from Feeding America Southwest Virginia shows that money for those facing food insecurity is getting even tighter.

The latest “Map the Meal Gap” report for Southwest Virginia shows that all counties in the region face food insecurity. Rates range from as low as 7.3 point percent of the population in Bedford County to the high rate of 21.8 percent in Martinsville City. The study also finds that people currently facing hunger are likely falling further behind as they continue to struggle to buy enough food to meet their needs. Food-insecure individuals now face, on average, a food budget shortfall of $17.01 per person each week. That’s up from $16.56 last year.

Amanda Allen with Feeding America Southwest Virginia says the reason for the rise in the budget shortfall of food budgets per person per week is likely due to the rising cost of food, while their economic status remains unchanged.

 "The cost of food, the cost of a meal has risen in a lot of places and I think that makes it difficult, for some they are already facing economic challenges and the cost of food goes up and now it gets harder and harder," Allen said.

The average cost of meals is displayed through an interactive map that displays details about each area.

The latest report details food insecurity and the cost of food at both the county and congressional district level. The national average food insecurity rate across all counties is 14 percent.

“This important research continues to show that Feeding America Southwest Virginia’s mission is critical to the lives of those in our region facing hunger,” says Pamela Irvine, Feeding America Southwest Virginia’s President and CEO. “Residents who were already struggling find themselves struggling even more. In areas such as Virginia’s coalfields, the challenging economic conditions mean even more people face food insecurity than in previous years.”

Feeding America Southwest Virginia is one of 200 food banks in the Feeding America network that collectively provide food assistance to 46 million Americans struggling with hunger. Serving 26 counties and nine cities through a network of more than 350 partner programs in Southwest Virginia, FASWVA distributed enough food to provide 14.6 million meals in 2016.

“It is disheartening to realize that millions of hardworking, low-income Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to feed themselves and their families at the same time that our economy is showing many signs of improvement, including a substantial decline in the number of people who are unemployed,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America. “This study underscores the need for strong federal nutrition programs as well of the importance of charitable food assistance programs, especially the food pantries and meal programs served by the Feeding America network of food banks.”

Map the Meal Gap 2017 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 Brands Foundation and Nielsen.

Further data from the report reveals that in certain localities the number of residents facing food insecurity increased. Eight localities in Southwest Virginia saw increase in the percentage of food insecure residents. Despite small decreases in food insecurity percentages, Martinsville and Danville remain the two localities with the highest rates of food insecurity in Southwest Virginia. The report also noted areas that continue to be hard hit are the already challenged coalfield-area counties, with Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Scott counties and Norton City seeing an increase in food insecurity.

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 2017.

A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available at map.feedingamerica.org.

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