Despite the uptick in the recent economic news, the recession is not over for more than 260,000 Idahoans.
On Friday, April 27, The Idaho Foodbank released the results of the 2012 “Map the Meal Gap.” It shows that Idaho’s food-insecurity rate has increased from 15.8% (235,970 people) last year to 17% (267,620 people). (For FAQs, detailed county data, a glossary of terms and other information, go to http://idahofoodbank.org/?page=map-the-meal-gap-2012. The site includes an interactive map that allows you to call up food-insecurity numbers for any county in Idaho.
Most Comprehensive Picture
“Map the Meal Gap” research was conducted by Feeding America, the national network of food banks, and the Neilsen Company. “Map the Meal Gap” provides the most comprehensive picture yet of food insecurity in Idaho and examines it from several angles.
This study measures food insecurity down to a county level and estimates the number of meals it will take to meet the need in Idaho. It also looks at income bands within the food-insecure population to show how those with different income levels are at risk of hunger. The percentages are based on the federal poverty level, which for a family of four is $22,350 per year.
These data are from 2010, the most recent available.
For instance, in Ada County the food-insecurity rate is 15.1%, which means 57,320 people are unsure of their food supply.
* Of that 57,320 people, 34% are below 130% of poverty, which means they are eligible for food stamps.
* Another 16% of that 57,320 are between 130% and 185% of poverty, which makes them eligible for WIC and other programs.
* The final 51% of those 57,320 people are above 185% of poverty, which means even though they don’t have enough food to live a healthy lifestyle, they are not eligible for any government assistance.
Similar information is available for every county in Idaho at http://idahofoodbank.org/?page=map-the-meal-gap-2012.
Thousands Get No Benefits
In Idaho, there are 104,372 food-insecure people below 130% of poverty, 26,762 food-insecure people between 130% and 185%, and 136,486 food-insecure people above 185% of poverty with no benefit eligibility.
This last figure – 136,486 people above 185% of poverty with no benefit eligibility – is the most significant increase in this study. Last year, 37% of food-insecure Idahoans (87,309 people) were in this situation of being food insecure but with no access to benefits.
The study calculated it would take $123.9 million and 46 million pounds of food to close the gap between what people have and what they feel they need. (See FAQs for more details.)
In 2011, we surveyed our partner agencies, nonprofits that serve food recipients directly, and asked them about the need they are seeing. What we found supported the “Meal Gap” data.
Our 2011 Agency Survey turned up some statistics that illustrate the fact that the need for food has not slowed down.
* In 2010, 24% of agencies surveyed saw a 31% OR MORE increase in demand over the previous 12 months.
* In 2011, 34% of the Foodbank’s partner agencies surveyed saw a 31% OR MORE increase in demand over the last 12 months.
* The majority of the people they are serving are NEW individuals and families who need help.
* 39% of the people served need help for up to 12 months.
Finally, in April, BSU released its annual study of homelessness in Idaho. It found that in 2010, the number of homeless individuals rose from 2,997 to 3,176, an increase of 179 or 6%.