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Map the Meal Gap, Food Insecurity in Your County

Health & Wellness  (tags: children, death, diet, government, food, family, ethics, health, humans, illness, nutrition, prevention, protection, study, society, warning, safety, risks, investigation )

- 1804 days ago -
The report finds that food insecurity exists in virtually every county and Congressional district in the nation.

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Kit B (276)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 6:33 pm

I'm sending this along to my Congressional representative, my Senators and local state representatives.

JL A (281)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 6:42 pm
Great idea Kit! You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

greenplanet e (155)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 7:17 pm
Very concerning that such inequality and hunger exists.

Terry V (30)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 8:14 pm
INEXCUSABLE and pathetic..........

JL A (281)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 8:21 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Terry because you have done so within the last day.

Stephen Brian (23)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 11:16 pm
This is very concerning for a lot of reasons.

Here is some trae-data on U.S. agriculture:
Looking at sheer tonnage of human-consumable foods (not counting things like vegetable oil, fertilizer, and cattle-feed), U.S. imports and exports are roughly equal. In dollar values, it looks like U.S. agriculture is making a whole lot of money off of vegetable oil (and oil-seeds, and tobacco, and whatever else). Apparently rotating oil-crops with grains works very well, and the U.S. has the right climate for those oil-crops, so this might not be cash-crop farming (at the expense of staple foods). This is not to say that there is a large total food-shortage, but that food-production may be less widespread than it could be, and logistical issues could come into play, raising the price of food.

The second concerning aspect is the geographic distribution of the insecurity. There is some in notoriously poor urban areas, but a lot of the insecurity is away from major population-centers and the largest really rough region appears to be along the Mississippi River, which I had understood was one of the most heavily farmed regions on Earth. I looks like the problem might not be total food-production, but logistics. I really, really think the U.S. should focus its infrastructure-development on freight to lower the costs of transport which get passed onto consumers for bulky items, particularly food. That would help lower prices inland, at least, and perhaps alleviate some of the insecurity.

I don't know wha thte criteria for food-insecurity are in this study, but if they are very demanding, the numbers on the map are outright scary. I don't think the U.S. is really at the loss-of-sovereignty level of food-insecurity, with food-exporters pulling the U.S. government's strings, but the numbers are very much not reassurring.

Then there is the other, other problem which shows up here, the difference between the insecurity-rates for the overall population and that for kids. They could mean a few things: There could be a lot of borderline families where the wage-earners eat properly and nobody else does. There could also be a lot of poor parents having large numbers of children whom they cannot support in unplanned families. There could also be families which are not quite borderline, but simply do not make proper nourishment for children a high priority. I suspect there is a mix of these. I would really like to see the numbers compared over a much longer time-period (generations) to get a better idea of how much each of these contribute to the statistics.

Gene J (290)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 8:00 am
Well I'm glad to see my state below the national average but still, 11.4% is a LOT of people. Many of them children. And what has been our Congress' response? Cut more money from SNAP. Fools, idiots, ne'er do wells masquerading as human beings. What I'd like to see is some way to take the mapping of congressional districts out of the hands of the states, so that gerrymandering could no longer be possible, and just see what sort of Congress would result. My thought is one with more heart than the House ever shows now. Senate would remain the same but we can deal with that too. I just don't believe the American people favor policy that does what is happening across the country and were it not for the advantages of incumbency and gerrymandered districts the republican party would not be running things in the House. That anyone should go hungry in this country is a national disgrace, no excuse for it but ideology whose root, I grant, is not idiot,but still feel that shoe fits when describing the policy makers in Washington today...

JL A (281)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 8:05 am
The source of data definitions was at the site Stephen. None of your ideas address the actual economics behind these data (e.g., inadequate wages for survival). Excellent comment Gene--but it is too soon to send you a star.

Gloria picchetti (304)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 8:07 am
Tighten up the belt!

JL A (281)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 8:14 am
You cannot currently send a star to Gloria because you have done so within the last day.

Angelika R (143)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 9:20 am
The headline should read " the country", not county. And the term "food insecurity" is more than inappropriate, to begin with. I've now seen such posts for the past 2 years on a regular basis, things seem to only change for worse. Will the next such map show the fatal casualties of famine? Thx JL

JL A (281)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 9:41 am
You are welcome Angelika. The data at the county level can be brought up, not just state level is why the title.

Nancy M (197)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 11:45 am
Really interesting. My county was quite high. I wonder how much of it is college students who stay looking for work here and never quite get there. You know- college towns.

Nice to see though the food banks listed as well.

Past Member (0)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 12:37 pm
Thats a lot of hungry people I do not understand the main western nations now They give all these millions in overseas aid fair enough but they cant feed their own people Never makes sense to me

Noted thanks

JL A (281)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 12:55 pm
You are welcome Carol.
You cannot currently send a star to Carol because you have done so within the last day.

Stephen Brian (23)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 2:17 pm
Hi JLA :)

It looks like the definition of food-insecurity comes from here:
or here:
However, that runs on a spectrum, not a binary "secure" / "insecure" result. For midrange severity according to the USDA, all that is needed is for people to have had the size or nutritional value of their meal constrained by money at least once in the year before the survey (and also have been worried about that happening). Without further information, I don't even know if the criterion about actually having meals constrained was demanded for a household's inclusion in the numbers given, or only a positive answer to any one of the 18 questions.

The problem comes from three ends. Wages, the price of food, and the priority placed upon proper nutrition for the entre household all play into the problem. there are hosueholds with some seriously screwed up priorities (like booze-money for adults taking priority over education for children, for example, which I have personally seen twice), but really nothing can be done by government or other external forces about that. Culture is too complex and delicate for the blunt tools of government-intervention. I have never seen any succcessful attempt by government to intervene in culture without very troubling unexpected consequences. Wages can go up, in theory, but the difficulties in trying to make that happen are fairly apparent. Besides, according to the survey, about 40%-50% of food-insecure households are above 185% of the poverty-level and not on any food-assistance program. Increasing wages will, apparently, not do very much. (This also suggests very broad criteria for declaring a household insecure for the map.)

I see the most promise in a strategy of increasing the rate at which money translates into real wealth at the low end of the income-scale, adressing the gap in real wealth directly rather than through the gap in monetary income. That means encouraging cheaper housing-costs (rent and utilities), trying to make food cheaper, and trying to drive down prices for any other goods of very inelastic demand (medicine, energy, transportation, or whatever) without cutting quality. For food, that means freight-infrastructure, maybe greater efficiency in inspections, and whatever else can be done.

Birgit W (160)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 4:16 pm
Very upsetting but nothing new unfortunately.

JL A (281)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 4:29 pm
SB: The post told you it was defined by % of poverty --all the rest you wrote was irrelevant to this post.
Thanks for an appropriate to the post comment Birgit, unfortunately: You cannot currently send a star to Birgit because you have done so within the last day.

Kerrie G (116)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 6:09 pm
Noted, thanks.

Stephen Brian (23)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 7:04 pm
Hi JLA :)

Where does it say anything about being defined by poverty? Maybe you're thinking of a different page somewhere. The one to which you linked says (when the first tab of captions is active)

"What is food insecurity and what does it look like in America?

Food insecurity refers to USDA's measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. ..." There is some more after that, but this is the only part under the tab that gives any indication what criteria were used.

Under Methodology here,
it says that it used USDA data on food-insecurity rates, correlated the rates from the regions where it got the data with economic indicators, and extrapolated to all of the U.S. The problem is that the USDA doesn't exactly produce food-insecurity rates. It has multiple classifications of food-insecurity, but I see no indication which one is used. I am also concerned because the U.S. has enormous regional variations in economic structures, governance, and other things that could play havoc with those correlations. Without some information about which regions were used, I don't know if I can just accept that they were really representative of country as a whole, or of some of the individual states. The numbers look less trustworthy after seeing the presented part of the methodology.

That is not to say that there is no problem. Still, I have no idea how you jumped from "it was defined by % of poverty" (which it obviously wasn't) to calling the rest of my comment irrelevant. I was talking about approaches to try to address the problem and what I see as their relative potentials for success. I could go into pros and cons of each, if you want, but that could take a while. The data may all be moot soon anyways: If the growth from Quantitative Easing is just a bubble (as I very strongly suspect), the markets are set to crash again and food-insecurity will jump dramatically. This is another reason why I think freight-infrastructure would be a good idea: Even in a crash where loads of jobs disappear, freight-infrastructure would continue to pay off in reduced food-prices.

Christina G (11)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 7:55 pm
i helped do research in Sonoma County (CA) to find out who was using soup kitchens and food pantries and often it was parents who both worked full time (papa often 2 full time jobs and they still could NOT FEED their families! Minimum wage too low and rent tooooo high! what does that tell their children - decent hard working parents who can't get the basics - what does that tell them about the society they live in - especially when they see more vineyards going in and the wineries getting tax breaks - broke my heart so i moved....

JL A (281)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 9:18 pm
You are welcome Kerrie.
Directions say click on the state or county and there you find the percentages of poverty rate and other data definitions--what 'reading' this post required for those making comments on the post.

Perfect and very common example Chris.

paul m (93)
Friday June 14, 2013, 2:54 am


Patricia H (440)
Friday June 14, 2013, 6:39 am

Josephine Tomsam (0)
Friday June 14, 2013, 7:24 am
Thanks! very good articles. Nice share map.
Friv | Friv 3


Karen Gee (97)
Friday June 14, 2013, 7:56 am
Noted, thanks

JL A (281)
Friday June 14, 2013, 8:04 am
You are welcome Josephine and Karen.

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Tuesday June 18, 2013, 3:46 am
Fascinating article, this issue applies in many nations around the world including mine. As long as the economic structure is unequal and unfair these issues will continue.

Melania P (122)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 12:36 pm
As long as we don't tackle the actual human overpopulation and use natural resources differently, the hunger problem will continue globally!!!

JL A (281)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 12:52 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Melania because you have done so within the last day.

Sergio P (65)
Monday June 24, 2013, 3:13 pm

JL A (281)
Monday June 24, 2013, 3:58 pm
You are welcome Sergio
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