TERRE HAUTE -- Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank and Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization, recently released the study, "Map the Meal Gap," providing the first detailed look at the food budget needed by families struggling with hunger in the Wabash Valley each year -- an estimated $16,520.38.
"Over 43,000 individuals in the seven counties served by Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank are food insecure, 35 percent of those do not qualify for federal food assistance. Many of these individuals rely on the food services provided by the more than 75 member agencies of Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank. These member agencies are food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, senior centers and youth programs," Catholic Charities Terre Haute Agency Director John Eitling said. "Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank receives, sorts, stores and distributes more than 2.6 million pounds of food each year. We work with farmers, manufacturers, retailers and our generous donor to be able to provide this support to our neighbors in need."
The study takes a look at "meals" in a whole new way, using county level data on food costs from the Nielsen Company to break down the food budget shortfall of residents into an approximation of the meals missing from the tables of people at risk of hunger in Clay, Greene, Knox, Parke, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties.
"Although 'Map the Meal Gap' showed that the food costs of $2.28 for the area served by Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank are lower than the national average of $2.54, one in six Hoosiers living in this area face food insecurity, with Vigo County being among the highest in the state," Eitling said.
Map the Meal Gap provides the following data for its served counties and all counties in the United States in an interactive map format, including:
* The percentage of the population, who is food insecure,
* The percentage of the food insecure population who qualify based on income for SNAP (food stamps) and other federal nutrition programs,
* The percentage of the food insecure population in the Wabash Valley who do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and often must rely on charitable food assistance programs and who also need better wages and employment opportunities to help them meet their basic needs, and
* In a departure from the standard of measuring meals in pounds, "Map the Meal Gap" estimates the relative cost of a meal, adjusting the national average of $2.54 per meal that food secure people report they usually spend on a meal according to food prices in each county.
"The interactive map will, for the first time, allow policy makers, state agencies, corporate partners and individual advocates to develop integrated strategies to fight hunger on a community by community level," Eitling said.
According to Census Bureau's Current Population Survey data analyzed as part of "Map the Meal Gap," people struggling with hunger estimate they would need about $56 more each month on average during the months that they are food insecure to address the shortages in their food budget. On a county-by-county level, "Map the Meal Gap" shows the shortfall represents an estimated 7,250,933 meals in the Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank service area on an annual basis.
The findings of "Map the Meal Gap" are based on statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, and food price data from the Nielsen Company.
A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available on Feeding America's website, www.feedingamerica.org.