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The national anti-hunger nonprofit, Feeding America, announced new data on May 2, that reveals food insecurity exists in every county in Harvesters’ service area, and while the food insecurity rate of 13.9 percent for this region is down slightly from last year (14.4%), it remains higher than the national average of 12.3 percent and is higher than pre-recession numbers.
Harvesters provides food and household products to nearly 620 nonprofit partner agencies in 16 counties in northeast Kansas and 10 counties in northwest Missouri.
Map the Meal Gap 2018 shows overall food insecurity rates in Harvesters’ Kansas counties range from a low of 10.1 percent of the population in Wabaunsee County to 17.9 percent of people in Riley County. Food insecurity in Harvesters’ Missouri counties ranges from a low of 11.1 percent in Clay County to 17.2 percent in Jackson County.
“It is disheartening to realize thousands of children, seniors and hardworking, low-income adults in Kansas and Missouri continue to find it difficult to feed themselves and their families at the same time our economy is showing signs of improvement, including a substantial decline in the number of people who are unemployed,” said Valerie Nicholson-Watson, President and CEO of Harvesters. “This annual study by Feeding America underscores the importance of charitable food assistance programs provided by Harvesters and its network of partner agencies, as well as the need for strong federal nutrition programs.”
Food-insecure individuals now face, on average, a food budget shortfall of $16.54 per person each week, down slightly from $17.10 last year. The average cost of a meal in Harvesters’ service area is now $2.94 compared to $2.89 in 2015, an increase of 2 percent.
The report also shows 38 percent of families facing hunger in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas are likely ineligible for federal nutrition assistance and, as such, must rely on charitable food banks to help put meals on their tables.
While many families and individuals Harvesters’ network serves qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), there remains a gap between people over the federal poverty line, who do not qualify for federal food assistance based on their meager earnings, and families with enough income to meet their food needs. People who fall in-between these two categories remain heavily dependent on food banks. Should Congress tighten requirements on SNAP, it would put an immense strain on Harvesters’ network and the services the organization is able to provide.
“While the Feeding America nationwide network of food banks delivers more than four billion meals annually to people facing hunger, SNAP serves 12 meals for every one meal we provide,” said Matt Knott, president of Feeding America. “As Congress debates the 2018 Farm Bill, SNAP must be protected and strengthened so that people facing hunger and working to re-establish independent lives have the essential food resources they need.”
Key local findings:
Across the 26-counties Harvesters’ serves, 1 in 7, or more than 353,380 people are food insecure, which means they may have a meal today, but do not know if their family will have food tomorrow.
The new data shows hunger continues to be a problem in every county Harvesters serves, and that hungry people can be found everywhere – in rural, suburban and urban communities.
Hunger rates are higher for children (17.5% versus 13.9% for general population).
Harvesters Response to Hunger
Last year, Harvesters' network provided more than 46 million meals to our network of 620 partner agencies. More than 141,500 people receive emergency food assistance each month through this network of pantries, kitchen and shelters. Harvesters also provides meals through its BackSnack and Kids Cafe and through SNAP outreach.
To learn more, see the summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report at map.feedingamerica.org.
Map the Meal Gap 2018 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 measurement and data analytics company. The study is supported by founding sponsor The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Conagra Brands Foundation and Nielsen.