REPORT: Child Hunger Is Concentrated In Rural America

Over one in five American children lack steady access to sufficient food, and over 50 million total Americans are food insecure. Those figures come from Map the Meal Gap, an annual report from the anti-hunger charity Feeding America that tracks food security down to the county level.

Feeding America’s interactive map is based on national data from 2011 and focuses on the rates of food insecurity rather than the raw numbers. The country’s largest cities have the largest raw numbers of food-insecure children, but children in rural communities are most likely to be food insecure. Forty-three percent of America’s counties are rural, but they make up almost two-thirds of counties with high rates of child food insecurity.

Three in ten children in New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. face food insecurity, as do a quarter or more of children in Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Nevada, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, North Carolina, California, Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Zavala County, Texas has the highest rate of child food insecurity: 46 percent. Click the map to access the interactive graphic on

While redistricting prevented Feeding America from calculating the figures by congressional district as they have in past reports, the county-level results should still be helpful as Congress debates billions of dollars in cuts to food stamps (formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP). The entirety of the Senate-proposed cuts come from restricting states’ use of simplified eligibility criteria for SNAP. The House bill goes even further, eliminating two common eligibility expansion programs that allow states to provide SNAP benefits to those earning more than 130 percent of the poverty line, which is the normal cutoff for SNAP.

But Map the Meal Gap offers some evidence that the expanded SNAP eligibility some states provide is needed. Forty-five percent of food-insecure Americans earn more than the SNAP threshold, and 29 percent earn more than 185 percent of the poverty line.