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Feeding Kentucky announced the release of Map the Meal Gap 2019, the latest report by Feeding America on 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.

Map the Meal Gap 2019 reveals that food insecurity exists in every county in Kentucky.

It also shows that children are more likely to be food insecure, with the child food insecurity rate at 18% compared to 15% for the overall population for Kentucky.

Kentucky’s food-insecurity rates remain higher than the national rate of 17% for child food insecurity and 13% for the overall population.

“While we are pleased that the overall and child food insecurity rates decreased slightly from the Map the Meal Gap 2018 report, over 660,000 people still facing food insecurity in Kentucky is unacceptable,” said Feeding Kentucky Executive Director Tamara Sandberg. “Making matters worse is that many of these individuals do not qualify for federal nutrition assistance programs. They have nowhere else to turn but the charitable food sector, which continues to struggle to keep pace with the need for food assistance. We call on partners in government, business, education, agricultural and faith-based sectors to continue working to close the meal gap and end hunger in Kentucky.”

Overall food insecurity in Kentucky ranges from a low of 7.6% of the population in Oldham County up to 22.5% in Magoffin County.

In Rowan County, the insecurity rate is 18%, with 4,290 food insecure residents.

The analysis also finds that 33% of residents of Kentucky who are food insecure are likely ineligible for federal nutrition assistance under current program requirements. This means that many households must rely even more on charitable food assistance.

The estimated program eligibility among food insecure people in Rowan County is:

• 27 percent above other nutritional program threshold of 185% poverty

• 9 percent between 130-185% poverty

• 65 percent below SNAP threshold of 130% poverty

The study also says that the average meal cost in Rowan County is $2.69 and additional money required to meet food needs is $1,971,000.

Key state findings:

• Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District has the highest child food insecurity rate at 25 percent.

• The estimated annual meal gap – the additional number of meals needed -- in Kentucky is 113,031,800.

• Across the nation and in Kentucky, counties with the highest food insecurity are disproportionately rural. Nationally, 78% of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are rural.

“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.”

Feeding Kentucky (formerly Kentucky Association of Food Banks) is comprised of seven Feeding America food banks that reach all 120 counties of Kentucky and serve an estimated one in seven of all Kentuckians annually.

Last year, its members distributed 64 million meals in partnership with more than 800 charitable feeding agencies such as pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. Feeding Kentucky is a Partner State Association of Feeding America.

Map the Meal Gap 2019 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, a global provider of information and insights.

The study is supported by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Conagra Brands Foundation and Nielsen.

The study’s findings underscore the extent of need that remains in communities in Kentucky and across the U.S., despite national measures from the USDA that indicate overall improvement.

Dr. Craig Gundersen, professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and a member of Feeding America’s Technical Advisory Group is the lead researcher of Map the Meal Gap 2019.

This is the ninth consecutive year that Feeding America has conducted the Map the Meal Gap study.

The Map the Meal Gap 2019 interactive map allows policymakers, state agencies, corporate partners, food banks and advocates to develop integrated strategies to fight hunger on a community level.

A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available at map.feedingamerica.org.

Join the conversation about Map the Meal Gap 2019 on Twitter using #MealGap.

Brad Stacy can be reached at bstacy@themoreheadnews.com or by telephone at 784-4116.