Special Report

States Where the Most People Don't Have Reliable Access to Food

Food insecurity, defined by the USDA as the lack of consistent access to enough food to lead a healthy, active life, is a major issue facing America today. In fact, food insecurity is present in every community of every state in America, and there may be a lot more food insecure people in your state than you might realize. (These are the states with the most unreliable access to healthy food.)

According to Feeding America, in 2020, one in eight Americans, or about 38 million people, faced food insecurity. As opposed to hunger, which is the physical feeling of being hungry, food insecurity refers to the lack of means to access food at a household level, usually by way of poverty or living far away from the nearest grocery store.

To identify the states where the most people lack reliable access to food, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from State Level Estimates of Low Income and Low Access Populations for 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We looked at the population in each state that is more than one mile away from a grocery store in an urban area and more than 20 miles away in a rural area. We looked at counties with populations greater than 10,000. Data was originally at the census tract level, then aggregated up to the county level. Low income population, number of housing units without a vehicle, and total population come from the USDA report. The poverty rate comes from the United States Census Bureau American Community Survey 2020 5-year estimates.

Perhaps surprisingly, food insecurity isn’t necessarily tied to poverty; people living above the poverty line may experience food insecurity while some living below it may not. Instead, there are many overlapping issues that can result in food insecurity, including social isolation, lack of affordable housing, structural racism, health issues, low wages, and high medical costs. (This is how much your state spends on your health.)

Click here to see the states where the most people don’t have reliable access to food

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