A new study finds that 40,080 people in Larimer County, including 11,200 children, do not always know where they will find their next meal. In all, 13.5 percent of the population in Larimer County struggles with hunger, according to research released by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization.
The findings are from Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” study, which estimates the rate of food insecurity for both the general population and, separately, for children under the age of 18. The estimates are calculated at the county level for the entire United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 50 million people nationwide are food insecure. The Food Bank for Larimer County is part of the Feeding America network.
“Food insecurity is one of the leading public health challenges in the United States,” said Dr. Craig Gundersen, Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, an international food insecurity expert and the lead researcher of the “Map the Meal Gap” study. “We undertook this research to demonstrate the extent and prevalence of food insecurity at the county level. This data has the potential to redefine the way service providers and policy makers address food insecurity in the communities they serve.
“At a local level, the results of this study show that food insecurity has remained relatively consistent for the last three years,” stated Amy Pezzani, executive director, Food Bank for Larimer County. “We interpret this data to mean that at the end of the day, after housing costs, utilities and other bills are paid, many people in our community just don’t have enough money left over for food. At the Food Bank, we believe that no one should have to worry about where they will find their next meal.”
“Map the Meal Gap 2013” also shows:
•The cost of an average meal in Larimer County is $2.99.
•The cost of an average meal in the Larimer County is $.32 higher than the national average of $2.67.
•The annual food budget shortfall in Larimer County (the amount of additional money that food-insecure individuals said they would need to put enough food on the table for an adequate diet) is $835.64 per person.
This is the third year that Feeding America has conducted the “Map the Meal Gap” study. The findings of “Map the Meal Gap” are based on statistics collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; food price data and analysis were provided by Nielsen, a global information and measurement company providing insights into what consumers watch and buy. The study was generously supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Nielsen and The ConAgra Foods Foundation.
Prior to the study’s first release in March 2011, food insecurity data was only available at the state level in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual report. The study further analyzes each county’s food insecure population to determine their income eligibility for federal nutrition assistance, and also provides meal cost estimates for every county in the nation.