Friday, May 3, 2013

Understanding Food Insecurity In Our Region

In order to address the problem of hunger, we must first understand it. Feeding America undertook the Map the Meal Gap project to learn more about the face of hunger at the local community level. By understanding the population in need, communities can better identify strategies for reaching the people who most need food assistance.

Food insecurity refers to the USDA's measure of the lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.

You can select New York State and then the county of your choice from the interactive map at and learn more about what our communities are facing when it comes to food insecurity. Once you get to the map, if you select the “Print” option (the yellow-orange box slightly above and to the right of the map), you can then specify what county or state you’d like data concerning.

But first a few words about the data sheets. Quite frankly they are a bit confusing to read. They provide some very interesting data but here’s a couple tips to help you understand their print out. First off, the top half of the page is New York State data; the bottom half is data for the county you selected.  Second, the data on the right hand side of the page, which is presented as a three-tiered green-shaded table of “Income Bands,” basically represents three different income groups – those who make more than 185% of poverty, those that make between 185% and 130% of poverty, and those that make less than 130% of poverty. Each one has different social safety nets that help people within the band. These are explained briefly below to help you understand what you are seeing when you look at the Herkimer and Oneida Counties data.

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Assuming that you can now follow what each of the "income bands" represents, the important number is the percentage shown for each of the bands. That percentage represents the percent of the food insecure population that falls into each income band. This allows you to not only see those that are the poorest among the local population that are struggle with food security, but also those that are sometimes referred to as the "working poor", those that may have jobs but still struggle to make ends meet.

At any rate, below you can find two sets of reports for each county. The firs set is for the county as a whole; the second set shows the data in regard to children within food insecure households. For a fuller explanation of these pages you may want to read some of the the Executive Summary of the "Map the Meal" page.

Click to Enlarge Herkimer County Full Report

Click to Enlarge Oneida County Full Report

And here are the two focusing on children in each county living within insecure food households.

Herkimer County Children Living with Food Insecurity

Oneida County Children Living with Food Insecurity