The goals of the Map the Meal Gap project are focused on equipping communities, service providers and policymakers with additional analytical tools to help understand the dynamics of food insecurity at the local level so that they may use this information to better inform discussions about how to respond to the need. Map the Meal Gap data document the variation in food insecurity across communities for both the general population and for children. By categorizing the food-insecure population into income bands, the data also demonstrate the critical role of both the public and private sector in addressing food insecurity in America.
There are two key findings from the report. First, food insecurity exists in every county across the country. Second, locally, as well as nationally, federal nutrition programs are not currently reaching all food-insecure people, reflecting both the important role of charitable hunger relief and the need to strengthen anti-hunger programs and policies.
Map the Meal Gap 2014 shows that there are millions of food-insecure people in counties across the United States who have incomes that render them ineligible for most federal food assistance programs. This suggests that federal nutrition programs, while targeted at our most vulnerable, do not serve all who are in need of food assistance. The charitable sector has stepped in to serve individuals in need who are not eligible for federal assistance, as well as families who participate in federal programs but whose benefits are inadequate to get them through the month. These findings are important for policymakers considering eligibility rules for federal programs, as well as support for charitable programs.