Feeding America releases the 2019 Map the Meal Gap study

Study shows children in Southwest Florida are more likely to face hunger than children nationwide

Child food insecurity rates in the Harry Chapin Food Bank’s Southwest Florida service area are higher than overall child food insecurity rates across the country, according to the Map the Meal Gap 2019 report released today by Feeding America. In Southwest Florida, 20.4 percent of children are food insecure vs. 17 percent of children nationwide.

That means of the 227,645 children in Southwest Florida, 46,470 are food insecure. The rate of child food insecurity for the state of Florida is also 20.4 percent.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank serves Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties. The study shows that food insecurity exists in the overall population of every county, with 

151,610 people, or 11.8 percent of a total 1.28 million population, suffering from food insecurity.

Map the Meal Gap looks at food insecurity and the cost of food at both the county and congressional district level. It is the only study that provides food insecurity data at the local level. People who are food insecure may not know where their next meal is coming from. The USDA defines food insecurity as limited or uncertain access to enough food for all members of a household to live an active, healthy life.

“There isn’t a single state or county in America free from child hunger, and it is within our collective power to change that and ensure that today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, chief executive officer of Feeding America. “The Feeding America nationwide network of food banks is investing in our nation’s future by helping to provide over 146 million meals to children every year. Still, Map the Meal Gap highlights that more must be done. Together food banks, corporations, policymakers, donors, volunteers and advocates can solve hunger.”

“I encourage everyone to visit the website, map.feedingamerica.org to find out what hunger looks like in their community and get involved to be part of the solution,” Babineaux-Fontenot continued. “One way is to tell Congress to invest in kids during Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation and increase access to food for kids during the summer. Your voice matters and we can make a difference.”

Overall food insecurity in the individual counties in the Harry Chapin Food Bank’s service area ranges from a low of 10.1 percent in Collier county up to 14 percent in Glades County. The rate for child food insecurity ranges from 19.4 percent in Collier County to 23.3 percent in Hendry County. Yet, the trend over the last three years shows that food insecurity in the Southwest Florida are is inching ever so slowly downward. That trend is mirrored nationwide. For example, in the 2017 Map the Meal Gap study, overall food insecurity in Southwest Florida was 13.1 percent vs. 11.8 percent today, and child food insecurity was 22.6 percent vs. 20.4 percent today.

"It is the mission of the Harry Chapin Food Bank to lead our community in the fight to end hunger,” said Richard LeBer, food bank president and CEO. “We’re pleased to see continuing slight improvement in food insecurity in Southwest Florida, but recognize the need to keep working hard to feed our neighbors. No one needs to go hungry in our community. The Map the Meal Gap study underlines the urgency of this issue."

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