The Map the Meal Gap Report Still Shows NM Ranked #1 for Child Hunger

For the fourth year in a row, Feeding America has released Map the Meal Gap to show the extent of hunger nationally and at the state and community level.  Once again, New Mexico is number one in the nation for childhood food insecurity and tied for fourth nationally for the overall rate of food insecurity.  “We’re number one” has never had more tragic implications.  But this study provides us with information that can help us change our standings in the national ranking and improve the future for New Mexico children.  So what is the Map the Meal Gap, and how can you use it to address the need in your community?MaptheGaptrans

For years, food banks relied on state and national food insecurity data to estimate the need in their area.  Traditionally, the number of people falling below the federal poverty threshold was the indicator most typically used for identifying the need for food at the local level because it was one of the few indicators available at the county level. However, national food insecurity data revealed that about 57% of those struggling with hunger actually had incomes above the federal poverty level, and 59% of poor households were food secure.  Measuring need based on local poverty rates alone provided an incomplete food index, and average meal cost) to determine county level food insecurity and child food insecurity and an estimate of the food budget shortfall for people experiencing food insecurity.

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(Food lines like this one happen all across our state.  These are children receiving food at school provided by a food bank to take home to eat over a weekend.  Often children do not have enough food to eat at home over the weekends.)

Because it shows individualized data for congressional districts and for counties, local communities can assess their own need and develop customized plans to address food insecurity in their area and to reach the people who most need assistance.  The Map the Meal Gap report is also valuable tool to educate policy makers about the issue of hunger among their constituents.  Food banks in New Mexico have been using this data to customize their food programs and to develop new outreach around critical areas like childhood hunger.  If you would like to look at the data, Feeding America has a summary of the findings, an interactive map that shows the data down to the county level, and a complete Map the Meal Gap report at www.feedingamerica.org/mapthegap.

Someone very wise (Sir Francis Bacon) once said “Knowledge is power.”  The Map the Meal data provides knowledge that allows each of us to become more powerful advocates in the work to end hunger.  I encourage you to visit the web link and see what hunger looks like in your community.  Then take the time to contact a local food bank or food pantry to see what you can do to make a difference in the lives of New Mexicans who seek food assistance every week.  Whether it’s participating in a food drive, volunteering at a school pantry, packing food boxes for a senior center, donating funds, or working a shift at your local food bank or pantry, every action we take brings us one step closer to changing the face of hunger in New Mexico.

Kathy Komoll is the Executive Director of the New Mexico Association of Food Banks.



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