Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger nonprofit, has released its Map the Meal Gap study for the third year.
Bob Aiken, the organization's president, said it’s the only study that maps food insecurities county by county across the nation. The World Health Organization defines food security in three parts: Food availability of sufficient quality, access to appropriate nutrition, and appropriate used based on nutrition and care.
The food insecurity numbers in the study range from 2 percent in North Dakota to 35 percent in Mississippi. In Bexar County, there is an overall food insecurity level of 16.7 percent. The number is higher in children, with 27.1 percent of kids with a food insecurity.
San Antonio Food Bank president Eric Cooper said the purpose of the study is to point out the problem to local elected leaders.
"We've taken it to every city council in our service territory, and I tell you that's been a challenge because there are many cities," he said. "But we've delivered this report to help them understand at the local level--helping them get their hands around what [the need is]," Cooper said.
Cooper said the Food Bank has presented the data to leaders in many areas, and he hopes that will begin to help solve food insecurity problems. He said once they know the numbers, they can begin seeking resources to help families in their communities.
One organization helping during the summer months is the Boys and Girls Club. Thousands of kids attend the clubs during the days, and are provided with lunches. Angie Mock, who runs the local clubs, said 94 percent of the children are on reduced or free lunches during the school year.
She said the clubs provide a much needed meal during the summer.
"We have nine sites this summer, which is up by an additional three sites, so absolutely, kids that are with us this summer will be able to focus on academics, healthy lifestyles, character and good citizenship but they'll be able to do it because they won't be hungry," she said.
The real story, Mock said, is when a child asks to take home a sack lunch to a brother or a sister. She said it highlights the true need, and that’s why Feeding America’s study can have an impact.
- View the study and interactive map at: feedingamerica.org