7 Million Hurricane-Impacted People Were Food Insecure

October 30, 2017

The recent hurricanes have wreaked havoc in the service areas of 26 Feeding America® food banks in five states. Historic flooding, power outages, and collapsing infrastructure have devastated communities. In addition, according to Map the Meal Gap 2017, a study published by Feeding America earlier this year, these communities already had some of the highest populations of food insecure individuals before the hurricanes.

Map the Meal Gap 2017 shows that Harris County (Houston, TX) has the second highest number of food insecure individuals overall across all counties and the second highest number of food insecure children as well. Nearly three quarters of a million people face hunger in Houston. Broward County and Miami-Dade County in Florida also are among the top 20 counties with the highest number of food insecure people. The total number of people facing hunger in these three counties prior to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is more than 1.2 million. 

"Feeding America food banks are embedded into the communities they serve, providing food and nourishment to people in need,” said Erin McDonald, VP, Center for Research & Learning at Feeding America. “The Map the Meal Gap data demonstrates the enormity of the problem our food banks in those areas faced prior to the hurricanes, which have compounded the problem.  Oftentimes, it is the people who already were struggling who have the hardest time recovering from a natural disaster.” 

Additionally, Map the Meal Gap estimates the cost of an average meal in each county in the nation based on data provided by Nielsen, the global measurement and data analytics company. According to the 2017 report, Monroe County, Florida has an average meal cost of $3.99, more than $1.00 higher than the $2.94 national average.

“County-level food insecurity data allows us all to understand where people are most vulnerable—especially when they are impacted by natural disasters,” said Crystal Barnes, Senior Vice President of Global Responsibility & Sustainability at Nielsen. “We’ve been honored to support Map the Meal Gap with data through Nielsen Cares, our pro bono and employee volunteering program, since the beginning of the study and will continue to look for ways that our data and employee volunteer time can help close the food insecurity gap for good.” 

Map the Meal Gap is a study conducted annually by Feeding America. Map the Meal Gap 2017 is the seventh year this data has been compiled. It provides estimates of food insecurity and child food insecurity at both the county and congressional district levels. 

As hurricane-ravaged communities begin their rebuilding process, this information allows food banks and anti-hunger advocates to better understand and communicate the level of need and the challenges facing food-insecure families in their communities.

The full findings of Map the Meal Gap 2017 were released in May of this year and can be found at map.feedingamerica.org.  


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About Feeding America

Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and over 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries and meal programs, we helped provide 5.2 billion meals to tens of millions of people in need last year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; brings attention to the social and systemic barriers that contribute to food insecurity in our nation; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.


Nielsen analyzed nationwide sales data from Universal Product Code (UPC)-coded food items to establish a relative price index that allows for comparisons of food prices across the country.  Nielsen assigned each UPC-coded food item to one of the 26 food categories in the USDA Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). These categories were weighted within the TFP market basket based on pounds purchased per week by age and gender. This total market basket was then translated into a county-specific multiplier (normalized to a value of 1). This price index enables Feeding America to provide local estimates for meal cost, food budget shortfall and meal gap.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers Watch and Buy. The Company’s Watch segment provides media and advertising clients with Nielsen Total Audience measurement services across all devices where content—video, audio and text—is consumed. The Buy segment offers consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers the industry's only global view of retail performance measurement. By integrating information from its Watch and Buy segments and other data sources, Nielsen provides its clients with both world-class measurement as well as analytics that help improve performance. Nielsen, an S&P 500 company, has operations in over 100 countries that cover more than 90% of the world's population. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.