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DES MOINES, Iowa (May 15, 2024) – Nearly 11% of Iowans (1 in 9) and 15.4% of Iowa children (1 in 6) face food insecurity. That’s according to Feeding America’s latest annual Map the Meal Gap study, out today.

In Iowa, 344,550 persons (10.8%) do not know where they will find their next meal. That includes 110,500 children. The annual meal gap in Iowa is more than 64.7 million meals. Additional money required to meet the state’s food needs would exceed $245.9 million.

Highest food insecurity since 2017
According to the Map the Meal Gap, Iowa has not experienced food insecurity this high since 2017, when it was 10.9%.

“While the latest study is based on 2022 data, it validates what we have been seeing and feeling here in Iowa,” said Food Bank of Iowa CEO Michelle Book. “We lift every pound of food out the door. We literally feel the weight of this growing need, as Food Bank of Iowa is distributing 30% more food to our partners year over year.”

Food Bank of Iowa distributed 22.5 million pounds of food across 55 counties in calendar year 2023 and is on track to exceed that based on the first four months of 2024.

Food insecurity impacts every Iowa county as well as every county, parish and congressional district across the U.S.

Hardest-hit Iowa counties
Food Bank of Iowa serves five of six counties facing the state’s highest levels of food insecurity. These include:

  • Appanoose County, where 14.9% of the population, or 1,830 residents, face food insecurity
  • Wapello County, home to Food Bank of Iowa’s Ottumwa distribution center, with 14.2%, or 5,000 residents, facing food insecurity
  • Crawford County, with a food insecurity rate of 14.1%, or 2,310 residents. (Served by Food Bank of Siouxland)
  • Lucas County, at 13.6%, is home to 1,180 persons facing food insecurity
  • Clarke County, at 13.5%, has 1,310 residents facing food insecurity
  • Des Moines County has a food insecurity rate of 13.4%, affecting 5,190 people.

Polk County data
Polk County’s overall food insecurity rate is 10.2%. Among children, it’s 15.9%. The 50,530 people affected by hunger in Polk County (including 19,180 children) comprise about 15% of the state’s overall food insecure population.

About Map the Meal Gap
Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap is the only study that provides local-level estimates of food insecurity and food costs for every county and congressional district. The study builds upon the USDA’s latest report of national and state data, which showed a sharp increase in food insecurity beginning in 2022 amidst historically high food prices and the expiration of many pandemic-era programs.

The Map the Meal Gap study is supported by Conagra Brands Foundation and NielsenIQ/NIQ. Additional key takeaways from the report can be found on the Map the Meal Gap website along with an interactive map that details food insecurity by geography, income, race and ethnicity.

Map the Meal Gap uses publicly available data from the USDA ERS, U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate local food insecurity at the county, congressional district and state levels. The study also estimates local meal costs and food budget shortfalls using food price data from NIQ based on the USDA Thrifty Food Plan, and grocery sales tax data for every county and state in the country.

About Food Bank of Iowa
Established in 1982, Food Bank of Iowa provides nutritious food for Iowa children, families, seniors and veterans to lead full and active lives, strengthening their communities. Serving 55 of Iowa’s 99 counties, Food Bank of Iowa delivers more than 22.5 million pounds of food (more than 18.75 million meals) to 700 partners annually. Learn more at foodbankiowa.org.

About Feeding America
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. As a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and over 60,000 agency partners, including food pantries and meal programs, we helped provide 5.2 billion meals to tens of millions of people in need last year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; brings attention to the social and systemic barriers that contribute to food insecurity in our nation; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.FeedingAmerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Media contact:
Annette Hacker, VP communications, Food Bank of Iowa, 515-867-2885, ahacker@foodbankiowa.org