Food Insecurity: Map the Meal Gap & Missing Meals


Feeding America 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.

Historically, the number of people falling below the federal poverty threshold has been used to identify the need for food at the local level because it is one of the few indicators available at the county level.  However, national food insecurity data reveal that about 45% of those struggling with hunger actually have incomes above the Federal Poverty Level ($23,550 for a family of four in 2013), and 53% of poor households do not suffer from food insecurity.  Thus, measuring need based on poverty alone does not accurately capture everyone who is struggling with hunger.

NEW: 2012 Data (released April, 2014):  Almost 1 in 5 Arizonans (17.8%), or 1.17 million people, struggled with food insecurity in 2012.  More alarmingly, more than 1 in 4 Arizona children (28.2% – an estimated 456,760) also suffered from food insecurity in that same time period. Arizona’s struggles with food insecurity exceed national averages:  nationwide, the food insecurity rate was 15.9%, which is 12% lower than Arizona’s rate, and 21.6% for children, which is 31% lower.  By county, Apache County had the highest rate of food insecurity at 25.7% while Pinal County had the lowest rate at 15.3%.

Map the Meal Gap breaks down food insecurity rates by county and Congressional District (using Arizona's old district maps showcasing only eight districts), providing an estimate of how much money it would take to make everyone food secure.  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.

 View the Interactive Map the Meal Gap map: Interactive maps for Arizona, the US, by County & Congressional District

2011 Data (released June,
2013):  In Arizona, an estimated 19.1% (more than 1.23 million people) are suffering from food insecurity, or the inability to provide enough food to feed the household. Yuma County (27.3%) had the highest rate of food insecurity, followed by Apache County (26.1%) and Navajo County (22.7%).  By comparison, Maricopa County was 16.2% food insecure and Pima County was 16.6% food insecure, while Pinal County had the lowest food insecurity rate at 15.9%. 

2010 Data (released April, 2012):  In Arizona, an estimated 19.0% (more than 1.21 million people) suffered from food insecurity.  Apache and Yuma Counties (27.1%) tied for the highest rates of food insecurity, with Navajo County (23.9%) coming in third. By comparison, Maricopa County is 16.1% and Pima County is 16.4% food insecure. By Congressional District, District 4 (24.1%), District 1 (21.6%) and District 7 (20.7%) have the highest food insecurity rates, while District 8 (16.4%) has the lowest rate of food insecurity.

2009 data (released March, 2011):  In Arizona, an estimated 17.4% (more than 1.1 million people) suffered from food insecurity.  Apache County (28.5%), Yuma County (27.9%) and Navajo County (24.5%) have the highest rates of food insecurity in Arizona. By comparison, Maricopa County is 16.2% and Pima County is 17.0% food insecure. By Congressional District, District 4 (24.7%), District 7 (21.3%) and District 1 (19.2%) have the highest food insecurity rates. 

What is "Missing Meals," How is it Calculated and Who is Affected?

Generally speaking, Map the Meal Gap data looks at the bottom sixth of Arizona’s population, while the AAFB Missing Meals data below expands that to the bottom third to provide a broader perspective on how pervasive hunger is today. Collectively, both data sets complement each other in providing a complete picture of just how many Arizona households are struggling with hunger. These households can be found in communities large and small throughout all fifteen Arizona counties, comprised of individuals from every age and ethnic group. In short, they are the households most impacted by the recession, unemployment, home foreclosure and lingering economic uncertainty. In addition, many of these households earn too much to qualify for SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits or other public assistance, yet struggle to afford enough food to put on the table each and every day.

The term “missing meals” refers to meals that are not provided by oneself, public assistance such as SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants & Children) school meals and other programs, or from private sources such as food banks. It is calculated based on the assumption people eat three meals per day. In Arizona, meals consumed by the working poor population breaks down like this:

Using the 2009 Consumer Price Index average cost per meal of $2.43, which both AAFB and Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap use, it would require an additional $446,958,770 to move every Arizona individual out of food insecurity, while it would take almost a billion dollars—$912,920,642—to eliminate the missing meal gap for the working poor population.

Missing Meals in Arizona - 2009

People oftentimes ask for an explanation on how to quantify the amount of food needed to feed everyone who struggles with hunger in Arizona, or how much money or other resources are necessary to tackle the hunger issue once and for all. New research by AAFB and St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance, along with Map the Meal gap data, helps to answer those questions by painting a picture of who is struggling with hunger by county, and what resources they are relying on to get by. This groundbreaking data shows nearly 17% of meals were missing from the diets of working poor Arizonans in 2009, the most current data available. These missing meals are what would allow every individual in Arizona to eat three meals per day but are instead being skipped and not eaten because those affected cannot afford them.

This equates to 375,687,507 actual meals missing for the “working poor,” a group comprised of those living at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is $40,800 for a family of four.

A staggering 1 in 3 Arizonans, or 2.02 million individuals, out of an estimated 6.36 million population, is considered working poor.

By Arizona County, Greenlee County (26.9%), Yavapai County (23.4%) and Pima County (20.7%) have the highest missing meal percentage for the working poor. Maricopa County’s working poor are estimated to miss 18.9% of their meals. View PDFs of selected Arizona Counties (more coming soon) to see more detailed information on where the meals for their working poor population come from:

Arizona Statewide  
Coconino County
Greenlee County  
Maricopa County  
Mohave County
Pima County
Pinal County
Yavapai County
Yuma County

AAFB’s missing meals data is calculated based on U.S. Census Bureau poverty and population statistics, participation rates for various public assistance programs, pounds of food distributed by Arizona food banks, data provided by St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, and Consumer Price Index food price data.