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Treasure Coast Food Bank - Study Finds that the Amount of Money Needed for a Person Facing Hunger to Be Food Secure Reaches a 20-Year High

Treasure Coast Food Bank

Treasure Coast - Wednesday May 15, 2024: The extra amount of money that people facing hunger need to have enough food reached its highest point in the last 20 years, according to Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap study.

At the local level, Map the Meal Gap finds that $70 million is needed to make up for the annual meal gap of 16 million meals on the Treasure Coast. Treasure Coast Food Bank is one of more than 200 food banks that are part of Feeding America’s nationwide food bank network.

Map the Meal Gap is the only study that provides local-level estimates of food insecurity and food costs for every county and congressional district. The study builds upon the USDA’s latest report of national and state data, which showed a sharp increase in food insecurity in 2022 amidst historically high food prices and the expiration of many pandemic-era programs. Map the Meal Gap emphasizes the urgent call for all of us to take action.

“This year's study reaffirms what individuals experiencing hunger have been telling us: rising food costs are making hunger in America worse, and it is still continuing into 2024,” noted Judy Cruz, President & CEO of Treasure Coast Food Bank. “This valuable resource aids our comprehension of food insecurity's ramifications, emphasizing our collective ability to end hunger in America through unified national efforts.”

Other key findings of Map the Meal Gap

Food Insecurity by Geography:

  • Food insecurity impacts communities in every county, parish and congressional district in the U.S.  
  • Estimated food insecurity levels vary across regions, influenced by factors like unemployment and poverty rate as well as policies and practices rooted in history that continue to hold people back today.  
  • In Florida, food insecurity ranges from a low of 9.6% to 19.6%. Treasure Coast Food Bank sees food insecurity levels ranging from a low of 12.1% in Martin County to a high of 15.8% in Okeechobee County.
  • Nationally, child food insecurity rates can reach almost 50% in some counties. Here in Florida, it can reach as high as 35.3%, and Okeechobee County is among the Top 20 Counties in Florida with the highest child food insecurity rate at 23.8%.

Income and Food Spending:

  • Nearly 50% of people facing hunger may not qualify for SNAP benefits due to income thresholds. Here on the Treasure Coast, the percentage is nearly 40% of people facing hunger may not qualify for SNAP.
  • The national food budget shortfall, which reflects the extra money that people who are food insecure report needing to cover their food needs, has hit a record high of $33.1 billion, up nearly 43% from the previous year. This translates to $24.73 a week per person, on average. 
  • Residents of the Treasure Coast feel this first-hand, with an estimated food budget shortfall of $105.88 a week for a family of four. 

Food Costs and Meal Prices:

  • The national average cost per meal has increased to $3.99, marking a nearly 3% increase compared to the prior year and reaching its highest point in the last two decades, even after adjusting for inflation. 
  • On the Treasure Coast, the average cost per meal is $4.27, which reflects the growing need we see at Treasure Coast Food Bank.

Food Insecurity by Race and Ethnicity:

  • While nationally nearly 40% of the food insecure population in the U.S. is white, food insecurity rates among Black and Latino individuals exceed those of white individuals in most counties. We find here on the Treasure Coast similar breakdowns by county.
  • Racial disparities persist, with significant variations in food insecurity rates across different racial and ethnic groups and geographic locations. 

The Map the Meal Gap study is supported by Conagra Brands Foundation and NielsenIQ/NIQ. Additional key takeaways from the report can be found on the Map the Meal Gap website along with an interactive map that details food insecurity by geography, income, race and ethnicity.