Food insecurity in Kentuckiana increases by more than 30%

By Tom Lally, Building Kentucky

Dare to Care Food Bank, Kentuckiana’s largest hunger relief network, released new data from Feeding America that mirrors increases in demand seen by local food pantries and partners. According to the annual Map the Meal Gap study, 167,950 people — nearly 13% of the region’s population — were food insecure in Kentuckiana in 2022. This is a 33.2% increase from the previous year’s total of 126,060 people.

Kentuckiana food insecurity by the numbers:

  • 55,430 children are food insecure (19%)
  • 1 in 4 Black people are food insecure (25%)
  • 1 in 6 Hispanic people are food insecure (18%)
  • 1 in 8 white people are food insecure (12%)

“Dare to Care and our partners are seeing the greatest need since the great recession,” Dare to Care CEO and President Vincent James said. “As food prices increase and our neighbors experience changes in employment, health and housing, they are looking to us to help meet their most basic needs. A nutritious meal empowers people to set their sights on a better life and a stronger community. This study shows they need our support now more than ever.”

As COVID-era public benefits end and prices for housing and food rise, our neighbors in need are forced to make tough decisions. Money once spent on housing, utilities, transportation, and food no longer covers basic needs. Dare to Care and its hundreds of partners in Kentuckiana have seen this increase firsthand. This new data offers a sobering data-informed reminder of our work’s importance.

This change did not happen overnight. As the need grows, federal support provided during the pandemic has returned to pre-pandemic levels. All households benefiting from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) received a temporary boost in benefits during the pandemic. That funding has now decreased, despite the rising need.

Map the Meal Gap is the only study that provides local-level estimates of food insecurity and food costs for every county and congressional district. The study builds upon the USDA’s latest report of national and state data, which showed a sharp increase in food insecurity in 2022 amidst historically high food prices and the expiration of many pandemic-era programs. Map the Meal Gap emphasizes the urgent call for all of us to take action. You can support our neighbors by donating time or resources to Dare to Care.

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