Kentucky Ag News

Hunger study finds food insecurity levels remain historically high


17 percent of residents of Kentucky struggle with hunger


Kentucky Association of Food Banks


BEREA, Ky. - The Kentucky Association of Food Banks announced the release of Map the Meal Gap 2016, an annual study by Feeding America that details food insecurity rates in every county and congressional district in the United States. The study reveals that 17 percent of the population in Kentucky is food insecure – 743,310 people, including 222,380 children.

Food insecurity is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. Using county data from the five-year period of 2010 to 2014, Map the Meal Gap 2016 is the first Map the Meal Gap report with post-Great Recession county food-insecurity estimates.

“Map the Meal Gap shares data about the prevalence of hunger in our communities,” said Tamara Sandberg, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. “This information allows food banks to better understand the need as we work with partners, donors and stakeholders across the state to find solutions to hunger.”

This year’s report found that nearly 17 percent, or approximately one in six people, in Kentucky struggles with hunger at some point during the year. This is higher than the national rate of nearly 15 percent. While the rate has decreased since 2011, the prevalence of food insecurity across counties remains historically high since 2008, and has not yet returned to pre-Great Recession levels.

Said Sandberg, “Of particular concern is the rate of childhood food insecurity in Kentucky. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for negative long-term consequences.”

Key local findings:

  • Food insecurity exists in every county in Kentucky.
  • Wolfe County has the highest food insecurity rate in the state, at 22.8 percent. Oldham County has the lowest food insecurity rate in the state, at 9.0 percent.
  • The 5th Congressional District has the highest food insecurity rate of Kentucky’s congressional districts, at 19.8 percent.
  • Children are at a higher risk of food insecurity; 22 percent of Kentucky’s children are food- insecure. Eleven Kentucky counties have childhood insecurity rates of 30 percent or higher:
    Wolfe (37.0 percent); Harlan (31.6 percent); Clay (31.4 percent); Knox (31.1 percent); McCreary (30.7 percent); Magoffin (30.7 percent); Lee (30.5 percent); Jackson (30.3 percent); Martin (30.3 percent); Breathitt (30.2 percent); and Lewis (30.0 percent).
  • 29.8 percent of Kentuckians in food-insecure households have incomes above 185 percent of the poverty line, making them likely ineligible for most federal nutrition assistance programs.
  • The “Food Budget Shortfall” – the additional dollars food-insecure Kentuckians report needing to meet their food needs – was $346,164,000.

Map the Meal Gap 2016 uses data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and food price data and analysis provided by Nielsen, a global provider of information and insights. The study, commissioned by Feeding America, is a detailed analysis of the nation’s food insecurity.

“This new research documents the pervasiveness of hunger in every community in our nation. While the economy has improved and unemployment rates have declined, many people are still struggling to access adequate amounts of nutritious food for their families,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America.

The study is supported by founding sponsor The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, ConAgra Foods Foundation and Nielsen. The lead researcher is Dr. Craig Gundersen, professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois, executive director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and a member of Feeding America’s Technical Advisory Group. This is the sixth consecutive year that Feeding America has conducted the Map the Meal Gap study.

The Map the Meal Gap 2016 interactive map allows policymakers, state agencies, corporate partners and individual advocates to develop integrated strategies to fight hunger on a community level.
A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available at

Join the conversation about Map the Meal Gap 2016 on Twitter using #MealGap.