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Map the Meal Gap shows food insecurity hits close to home

Ga’s 2nd

Congressional District leads state, nation in hunger struggle

VALDOSTA — Second Harvest of South Georgia announced the release of Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap study, which details the startling rate of food insecurity experienced by community members in South Georgia. Map the Meal Gap 2015 results reveal that food insecurity affects the most vulnerable populations in our area, including nearly one-third of all children in our area. Overall food insecurity across the United States ranges from a low of 4 percent to 33 percent in some parts of the country.

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. Georgia’s Second Congressional District ranks third in the nation for child food insecurity and leads the state in both the general population and among children. Twenty-six percent of people do not have a stable source of food, including 33.9 percent of the district’s children. The Second District, represented by Congressman Sanford L. Bishop, D-Albany, is home to six of the top 10 most food insecure counties in Georgia.

The South Georgia region is first in Georgia for those struggling with food insecurity and is well above the national average of 15.9 percent. The study also shows that:

• Dougherty County has the second-highest rate of food insecurity in Georgia at 26.7 percent and is among the top 1 percent in the nation.

• Sumter County in seventh statewide at 25.3 percent (general population) and 14th at 34.1 percent (children).

• Ben Hill County* is 13th in the nation and third in the state for child food insecurity at 38.8 percent, with Crisp at 20th nationally and 4th statewide with 35.9 percent.  

• Georgia ranks fourth in the nation for food insecurity (18.7 percent) and fifth among children (28.2 percent).

The enormity of the hunger issue in South Georgia comes as no surprise to Second Harvest. The regional food bank has continued to expand its programs in response to area need — distributing more than 20 million pounds of food/14.6 million meals in the last 12 months and feeding approximately 3,000 children each day. Second Harvest serves 30 counties from its four branches, which are located in Albany, Valdosta, Thomasville and Douglas. The food bank works with more than 450 partner charities across South Georgia to help provide a stable, affordable source of food and groceries to those in need.

“At Second Harvest we are constantly working to alleviate hunger in South Georgia,” said Frank Richards, CEO for the food bank. “This is a problem that we can solve, but it requires collaboration across the entire community.”

Richards also noted that Second Harvest is actively recruiting partner organizations who want to get involved in the fight against hunger; groups or individuals who have feeding programs or ministries are invited to contact the food bank to find out more about how Second Harvest can help.

Map the Meal Gap 2015 helps hunger-relief organizations like Second Harvest of South Georgia better quantify the economic issues that affect the communities they serve. The study is based on an analysis of statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. The study, commissioned by Feeding America, is supported by Founding Sponsor Howard G. Buffett Foundation as well as the ConAgra Foods Foundation and Nielsen. It is a detailed analysis of the nation’s food insecurity. An interactive map is available that allows viewers to explore the issue of hunger in South Georgia and across the country. The map can be found at map.feedingamerica.org

“Map the Meal Gap 2015 provides unique insight into the prevalence of food insecurity in each county and congressional district in our nation,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. “It will help policy makers and our elected officials understand the challenges they face in addressing hunger in the communities they serve.”

* Ben Hill County is part of Georgia’s 8th Congressional District which is represented by Congressman Austin Scott, R-Tifton.