Hunger Research & Data

May 2017: Arizonans Preventing Hunger Action Plan from the DES Hunger Advisory Council
Apr 2016: Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap
Aug 2014: Hunger In America Report
Apr 2015: Updated 2014 FRAC Food Hardship Data
Feb 2016: School Breakfast Scorecard
Sept 2014: Arizona Summary: Census Releases 2013 Poverty Data
June 2014: AZ & US Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Participation for 2013
Oct 2011: The Cost of Hunger in America
Aug 2011: Food Hardship Data for Households with Children

May 2017: Arizonans Preventing Hunger Action Plan from the DES Hunger Advisory Council

The face of hunger has changed dramatically!  Food Insecurity* now affects almost one in six Arizonans.1  The working poor live from paycheck to paycheck without savings. And 2.6 million Arizonans live below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.2 When faced with a car repair, an increase in rent, or a medical emergency, these individuals and families fall behind in payments and cannot free themselves from crushing debt. As the cost of living rises3, hunger affects seniors on fixed incomes, adults working at two or more jobs, and children who worry about empty refrigerators instead of math homework.

Since the Great Recession of 2008, the lines at food banks have continued to grow longer, including persons who formerly donated to those food banks.4 Emergency food providers are stretching to a breaking point. And low-income persons living in “food deserts” lack access to nutritious foods. These are just some of the needs that we can address together.

The Arizona Hunger Advisory Council of the Department of Economic Security invites you (your agency, business, church, school, etc.) to join in taking effective action steps to prevent hunger in your community.

Click here to download your copy of the Action Plan!

Apr 2016: Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap

Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap project seeks to learn more about the face of hunger at the local community level.  Feeding America has published Map the Meal Gap data since 2009, with support from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, ConAgra Food Foundation and The Nielsen Company, to learn more about food security at the local community level.  The annual study measures the population affected by food insecurity and the factors that contribute to need in households across the country, including weekly food-budget shortfalls, demographics, poverty levels and unemployment rates.

2014 Data (released April, 2016):  Almost 1 in 5 Arizonans (17.1%), or 1.15 million people, struggled with food insecurity in 2014.  Children are disproportionally affected: more than 1 in 4 Arizona children (26.8% – an estimated 434,840) suffered from food insecurity in that same time period. Arizona’s struggles with food insecurity exceed national averages:  nationwide, the food insecurity rate was 15.4%.  By county, Apache County had the highest rate of food insecurity nationwide at 26.4%. When a household suffers from food insecurity, it means they may lack access to or the ability to afford enough food to feed their household. Map the Meal Gap also breaks down food insecurity rates by county and Congressional District, providing an estimate of how much money it would take to make everyone food secure.

View the Map the Meal Gap for Arizona

Aug 2014: Hunger In America Report

Feeding America released the nationwide 2014 Hunger in America report, including Key Findings and selected Local Reports from around the country.

In October, they released the Arizona Statewide Report (PDF), which includes vast demographic data such as breakdowns by age, health, employment, education and more for the approximately 1.1 million Arizonans struggling with hunger and poverty.

Apr 2015: Updated 2014 FRAC Food Hardship Data

Arizona’s food hardship rate decreased slightly in 2014 according to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).  In 2014, one in five Arizonans (19.2%) said that there had been times over the past 12 months that they didn’t have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed.  This ranks Arizona 13th worst in the country in food hardship rate, down from a peak of 20.9% in 2012 but still higher than the pre-recession level of 18.8% in 2008, the first year food hardship was tracked. Nationwide, food hardship rate was 17.2% in 2014.

The 2014 report on food hardship includes data by state and Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Food hardship rates are a reflection of the current economic condition, and help quantify the inability of a household to afford enough food for all its members at any point during the year.

Two Arizona MSAs are in the top-100 nationally, with the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale MSA experiencing a 19.2% food hardship rate, ranking 42nd in the country.  The Tucson MSA ranked 69th with a 16.9% food hardship rate.

Notes about the 2014 report:
  • Food Hardship by Congressional District requires two to three years of data to get an adequate sample size for the congressional districts.  The redistricting that occurred in the 2012 election impacted this data, thus making breakdowns by Congressional District unavailable. FRAC is hopeful future reports will include data by Congressional District.
  • No Food Hardship data was collected in 2013.
Click here to read the full FRAC Food Hardship report (PDF).

Feb 2016: School Breakfast Scorecard

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released information on School Breakfast demand and participation for the 2014-15 school year (PDF). The report shows Arizona is making steady improvement in participation, more than half (52.1%) of low-income Arizona children who receive free or reduced-price school lunches eating school breakfasts.  However, this improvement in the number of children served breakfast still resulted in a drop in Arizona ranking at 28th in the U.S.  Beyond missed opportunities to ensure hungry kids are starting their days with breakfast – critical for kids to do well in school – Arizona misses out on additional federal funding by serving fewer breakfasts to eligible children than it could.

Recent Arizona Performance:

School Years School Breakfast Participation National Rank
2008-09 42.1% 34
2009-10 44.0% 26
2010-11 45.4% 26
2011-12 46.5% 29
2012-13 49.3% 27
2013-14 50.9% 27
2014-15 52.1% 28

Click here for more details on FRAC's School Breakfast data.

Sept 2014: Arizona Summary: Census Releases 2013 Poverty Data

The U.S. Census Bureau released new American Community Survey (ACS) data yesterday showing 18.6% of individuals and 26.5% of children under the age of 18 in Arizona lived in poverty in 2013, slight declines from the 2012 poverty rates of 18.7% and 27.0%, respectively.  For the second consecutive year in 2013, Arizona ranked 8th in the U.S. in highest percentage of individuals living in poverty.  Arizona did improve to 11th worst of highest percentage of children living in poverty in the U.S., up from 8th worst in 2012, although areas with high child poverty rates saw their plight worsen.

While the 2013 Arizona poverty rate is essentially unchanged from 2012, it still represents a 30.1% increase over the pre-recession 2007 poverty level of 14.3%.  Nationwide, 15.8% of individuals and 21.9% of children under the age of 18 lived in poverty in 2012.  Federal Poverty Level (FPL) guidelines in 2013 were set at an annual gross income of $23,550 for a family of four. 

Children live in poverty in disproportionate numbers when compared to the general population, and suffered greatly in high-poverty counties in 2013.  By percentage of children under of the age of 18, Apache (51.4% in 2013 vs. 40.9% in 2012), Navajo (45.8% in 2013 vs. 38.4% in 2012) and Mohave Counties (31.0% in 2013 vs. 33.7% in 2012) had the highest child poverty rates.  By comparison, 25.5% of children in Maricopa County lived in poverty in 2013 (unchanged from 2012), while in Pima County saw a decrease from 29.2% in 2012 to 26.7% of children living in poverty in 2013. 

For the first time, Census ACS released data for all of Arizona’s Congressional Districts, including the recently created District 9.  Here are the 2013 poverty rates by Arizona Congressional District:

District 1 - Ann Kirkpatrick 22.3% 31.8%
District 2 - Ron Barber 17.1% 23.4%
District 3 - Raul Grijalva 23.4% 30.4%
District 4 - Paul Gosar 17.4% 25.5%
District 5 - Matt Salmon 9.1% 9.9%
District 6 - David Schweikert 11.2% 15.1%
District 7 - Ed Pastor 37.0% 50.0%
District 8 - Trent Franks 11.1% 15.5%
District 9 - Kyrsten Sinema 19.4% 28.7%

By county, many Arizona Counties treaded water in 2013, although the two most impoverished saw increases: Both Apache (40.1% in 2013 vs. 33.2% in 2012) and Navajo (32.7% in 2013 vs. 30.7% in 2012) Counties saw poverty increases.  Coconino County (24.1%) finished with the third highest poverty rate in 2013.  Yavapai (16.1%), Pinal (16.3%) and Maricopa Counties (17.7%) had the lowest levels of poverty in 2013.  In Pima County, 19.5% of individuals lived in poverty in 2013, while in Yuma County, 17.8% of individuals lived in poverty in 2013.

By Arizona metropolitan area poverty rates, Glendale (26.3%), Tucson (25.3%) and Flagstaff (24.4%) had the highest levels of poverty in 2013. Gilbert (5.9%), Scottsdale (9.3%) and Chandler (10.4%) had the lowest levels.  Phoenix had a 23.6% poverty rate in 2013.

Complete 2013 Census ACS poverty data for Arizona by County (xls)

Complete 2013 Census ACS poverty data for Arizona by Major City / Metro Area (xls)

Complete 2013 Census ACS poverty data for Arizona by Congressional District (xls)

June 2014: AZ & US Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Participation for 2013

Arizona served 8,400 more children in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) in 2013 compared to 2012. This improved performance meant 14.9% of children receiving free and reduced-price lunches during the school year also received SFSP meals in 2013, ranking Arizona 24th in the country and comparing favorably to the national average of 15.1%.  It also continues a steady string of SFSP participation improvement for Arizona, which ranked as one of the worst states in the country just five years ago.

Yet, Arizona served 300,000 fewer meals to low-income children last year, an average decrease of nearly 6,000 fewer meals served each day compared to 2012.  Arizona served almost 1.1 million summer meals in 2013, down from the 1.4 million served in 2012.

Comparing participation rates of SFSP meals versus free and reduced-price lunches served by the National School Lunch Program during the school year acts as a proxy for determining how many low income children who may be at a higher risk for food insecurity are having their nutrition needs met over the summer.  Currently, more than 1 in 4 Arizona children (28.2%) struggle with food insecurity, meaning they live in households that may lack access to or the ability to afford enough food to feed all household members.

One of the biggest issues facing Arizona is finding a way to have kids return for summer meals on a regular basis.  Arizona also had slightly fewer SFSP meal sites and significantly fewer site sponsors in 2013, resulting in some children lacking access to summer meals because sites were located too far away from their residence, or in the case of some rural towns, there were no SFSP sites at all.  Not all schools are SFSP sites. Another reason to boost SFSP participation is that food costs are 100% reimbursed by the USDA.  If Arizona was able to increase participation levels to meet FRAC’s national goal of 40%, the state would receive an additional $8.7 million in federal funding.

Full data for Arizona and the U.S. available in Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation - Summer Nutrition Status Report 2014 (PDF).

Oct 2011: The Cost of Hunger in America

New research from the Center for American Progress calculates the costs of hunger to America in 2010 at $167.5 billion dollars, a 33% increase over pre-recession 2007 levels. In Arizona, our tab is nearly $4 billion, a 35% increase over 2007 and the 12th largest increase of any state. Nationally, it costs each citizen $542 and each household $1,410 annually.

The cost comprises related healthcare, education, lost productivity, charitable expenses, and more, but does not count federal nutrition programs such as SNAP (Food Stamps).

The report builds upon and updates a 2007 report principally sponsored by the Sodexo Foundation and written by Brandeis University Professor Donald Shepard, the principal author of this report; Larry Brown, who was then on the faculty at of the Harvard School of Public Health; and Timothy Martin and John Orwat from Brandeis University.  That initial report, “The Economic Costs of Domestic Hunger,” was the first to calculate the direct and indirect cost of adverse health, education, and economic productivity outcomes associated with hunger.  This study extends the 2007 study, examining the recession’s impact on hunger and the societal costs to our nation and to each of the 50 states in 2007 and 2010.

 View interactive Costs of Hunger map of the U.S.
 Read the full report (PDF).

Aug 2011: Food Hardship Data for Households with Children

According to an updated FRAC report, 29% of Arizona households with children experienced food hardship in 2010, which is defined as not having enough money to buy needed food during the previous twelve months. This ties Arizona with Louisiana for the 7th worst food hardship rate for households with children in the country. Nationally, the average food hardship rate for households with children was 23.4% and Washington D.C. led all states at 37.4%.

The food hardship data comes from a report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), which began compiling the data in 2008 and has been updated with 2010 data by state, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Congressional District. The data reflects the impact of the recession and general economic uncertainty by quantifying food hardship—the inability of a household to afford enough food for all its members.

Food hardship data is also broken down by Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Congressional District. Both the Tucson and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale MSAs ranked in the top-25 nationally for food hardship in households with children, ranking 15th (28.7%) and 20th (27.7%) respectively. Unfortunately, that means more than 1 in 4 children in both of Arizona’s major metro areas struggle with food hardship.

By Congressional District, the data shows two districts in Arizona ranked in the top 45 for food hardship in households with children. District 1 (Paul Gosar) tied for 14th wtih a 36.1% food hardship rate, while District 4 (Ed Pastor) ranked 39th with 32.4% rate, illustrating that food hardship rates for households with children are high in both urban and rural areas in Arizona.  Food Hardship by Arizona Congressional District:

1 Paul Gosar 36.1% 14
2 Trent Franks 28.4% 111
3 Ben Quayle 25.1% 189
4 Ed Pastor 32.4% 39
5 David Schweikert 13.9% 404
6 Jeff Flake 23.4% 227
7 Raúl Grijalva 26.0% 166
8 Gabrielle Giffords 22.0% 276