Carla Uhlarik, J.D., 2019, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law; B.A. 2013, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan.
An overwhelming amount of data that tracks food insecurity exists. Studies have been conducted by non-profit organizations, federal authorities, and local and state authorities to analyze food access and availability based on median income and transportation means in a given area. For instance, Feeding America—the U.S. Hunger Relief Organization mentioned above—has published a Map the Meal Gap since 2011 in collaboration with other non-profit organizations. The Map the Meal Gap locates food insecurity in every county in the United States. It uses the USDA’s measure of food insecurity, which is “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” This definition includes tracking a household’s need to substitute other basic needs—such as paying for utilities or rent—for food. According to the 2017 Map the Meal Gap, Feeding America found a 13.4% rate of food insecurity in the United States.
Additionally, the USDA’s Economic Research Services uses a similar web- based mapping tool that identifies tracts of land that have both a low-income population and a population with low access to a supermarket. If a tract has both a low-income population and low access, then it is labeled a “food desert.” This map, labeled the Food Access Research Atlas (“Food Atlas”), and the data correlating with it found that over 6% of the U.S. population live in areas that are both low-income and with low access to the nearest supermarket. [Read entire Note here].