Using Data to Fight Hunger

Nielsen employees volunteering with food bank
April 15, 2015
by Crystal Barnes


Working in New York City, there’s a constant reminder of hunger on my daily commute to work or to my kids’ school. It’s common to see someone on the sidewalk with a sign saying, “Hungry – please help.” Like many people, I give what I can personally, but working at Nielsen, I know we are able to help thousands more hungry Americans through our work on Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap.

 When we think about how we can help in the fight to solve hunger, we know that it’s not something we can do alone. Feeding America began Map the Meal Gap to better understand food insecurity at a local level and better equip local communities and governments with the information they need to respond to the problem. Feeding America research uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau to calculate estimates of food insecurity for every county and congressional district in the U.S. Nielsen’s data on food pricing helps estimate the gap – how big the food budget shortfall really is in dollars, a metric people can understand and relate to. This critical messaging enables Feeding America and its partners to communicate the size of the problem to individuals and elected officials and challenge them to join the fight against hunger. This collaboration is one of our earliest pro bono projects and showed us how data and our analytics expertise could make an uncommon impact.

In discovering the link between Nielsen’s competencies and Feeding America’s needs, we also realized that understanding hunger and solving it is not a job for one organization and we all must play a part. While Nielsen works to impact hunger broadly, many Nielsen employees also volunteer at the local level – at food banks and agencies in their own communities. Whether through the hands-on or skills-based volunteering our associates do throughout the year or through the in-kind giving of our data and services, we strongly believe that knowledge is power and that data can fuel the social change necessary to help solve hunger.



Crystal Barnes is the vice president, corporate social responsibility for Nielsen Cares.

*Photos courtsey of Nielsen.