About 38 million people around the nation – one in eight Americans – faced food insecurity in 2020, according to Feeding America. Food insecurity isn’t the same as hunger (though the two often go side by side) – it’s the lack of means to access food at a household level, usually because of poverty or the relative inaccessibility of grocery stores. (These are the counties where the most people live below the poverty line.)
Food insecurity isn’t always tied to poverty; for example, people living above the poverty line experience food insecurity while people living below it may not. Issues such as social isolation, lack of affordable housing, structural racism, low wages, health problems, and high medical costs. (These are the counties where the most people don’t have health insurance.)
To identify the counties with the worst food insecurity, 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 county 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, considering only counties with populations greater than 10,000. Data was originally collected 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.
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