Hunger is on the rise

Feeding America recently released their annual Map the Meal Gap study, which reveals localized data on food insecurity. Map the Meal Gap gives us a deeper look into food insecurity beyond the national data provided annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This newly available county-level data, which shows food insecurity rates for 2022, confirms what Philabundance and our partners have been witnessing firsthand: hunger is on the rise. Rising cost of living, historic food inflation, and the end of pandemic-era government assistance programs that previously helped people stay afloat have contributed to the soaring food insecurity we see today.  

Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life due to limited financial resources. The USDA Household Food Security Report, released last fall, revealed that nationally 44.2 million people, including over 13 million children, lived in food insecure households in 2022 – an increase of over 10 million people from the year prior. This is the highest national food insecurity rate since 2014, and the highest one-year increase since the 2008 Great Recession. The new local data from Map the Meal Gap mirrors the national trend, revealing increased food insecurity in all nine counties of Philabundance’s service area across Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey.
 

Throughout the Philabundance service area, over 600,000 people were food insecure in 2022. This is a sharp 25% increase, up from just under 500,000 people the year prior. Our overall food insecurity rate rose to 10.8% (1 in 9 people), up from 8.7% (1 in 11 people) in 2021. 

 

County  2021 Overall Food Insecurity  2022 Overall Food Insecurity  2021 Child Food Insecurity  2022 Child Food Insecurity 
Pennsylvania 
Bucks  6.2%  8.8%  5.2%  9.3% 
Chester  5.4%  8.1%  3.5%  7.5% 
Delaware  7.5%  9.7%  11.9%  16.6% 
Montgomery  6%  8.6%  5.6%  9.7% 
Philadelphia  13.6%  15.2%  25.5%  30.4% 
New Jersey 
Burlington  5.6%  7.9%  6.7%  11.1% 
Camden  9.1%  11.3%  12.3%  17.0% 
Gloucester  6.6%  8.9%  5.9%  9.9% 
Salem  10%  12.1%  14.3%  19.3% 

 

While food insecurity increased in every demographic, children as well as people of color were disproportionately affected. 17.1% of children (1 in 6) in our service area were food insecure, up from 12.6% (1 in 8) the year prior. Child food insecurity is particularly alarming in Philadelphia, where 1 in 3 children faced hunger. Across our service area, Black and Hispanic people were food insecure at more than 3x the rate of White people, with 1 in 4 Black people and 1 in 4 of Hispanic people experiencing food insecurity, compared to 1 in 12 of White people. These food insecurity rates are unacceptable, and highlights the work that must be done to reduce racial disparities and promote equity, as well as address the unique needs of children and families. 

 

Additionally, Map the Meal Gap found that around 50% of food insecure people are not eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest and most effective program in the fight to end hunger, because they earn above the income limit. This highlights the importance of food banks to help fill this growing gap, as we may be the only resource for people in this situation. We know that food insecurity would be much worse without a robust charitable food network, and Philabundance has continued to step up to serve our neighbors in need amid record high demand.

 

County  2022 Overall Food Insecurity  2022 Food Insecurity –  Black Persons  2022 Food Insecurity –   Hispanic Persons  2022 Food Insecurity –  White Persons 
Pennsylvania 
Bucks  8.8%  22%  19%  7%  
Chester  8.1%  23%  19%  6% 
Delaware  9.7%  25%  21%  8% 
Montgomery  8.6%  21%  18%  7% 
Philadelphia  13.6%  28%  30%  12% 
New Jersey 
Burlington  7.9%  13%  18%  6% 
Camden  11.3%  22%  25%  7% 
Gloucester  8.9%  18%  19%  6% 
Salem  12.1%  27%  25%  9% 

 

This sobering increase in food insecurity underscores the critical role of food banks like Philabundance, as well as the necessity of strong government investments in anti-hunger programs and policies. In 2021, food insecurity reached a historic low as a direct result of pandemic-relief efforts and substantial federal investments in the social safety net. Many of these government supports that existed in 2021 ended in 2022, like the highly effective Expanded Child Tax Credit. The loss of critical pandemic-era interventions coupled with rising costs of living have fully erased the prior gains and contributed to the drastic rise in hunger we see today. We fear hunger will rise again in next year’s 2023 data, reflecting the devastating end of additional support like SNAP Emergency Allotments.
 

Looking at the new food insecurity data, one thing is clear: hunger is a policy choice. There is no excuse for anyone in this country to go hungry when solutions exist. Our communities are facing a hunger crisis, and food banks alone cannot fill the gap and meet the need. We need strong government policies and programs to work hand-in-hand with food banks to ensure everyone has the food they need to thrive.
 

The Farm Bill currently provides a key opportunity for Congress to invest in federal nutrition programs that help millions of families keep food on the table and ease the strain on the charitable food network. Map the Meal Gap’s stark findings reinforce the need for Congress to pass a strong Farm Bill that protects and strengthens critical programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). Join Philabundance in urging Congress to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill that supports food banks and the people we serve!

Cheers to Our Volunteers!

Cheers to Our Volunteers!

That’s a wrap! We’re so thankful for everyone who spent time with us during our 2024 Volunteer Appreciation Week! It…
Justice for the Hungry

Justice for the Hungry

Will you join us in seeking Justice for the Hungry?     The Justice for the Hungry campaign was established in…
Driving Away Hunger During Ramadan with Senator Sharif Street

Driving Away Hunger During Ramadan with Senator Sharif Street

This month we are observing Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for the Muslim community. We were pleased to welcome…