The Geography of Hunger in America

More kids live in food-insecure homes in Los Angeles than anywhere else in the United States.

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Feeding America

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food-insecure homes as those households that don't regularly have access to enough to eat for an active, healthy life, and the problem is more pervasive in rural America than in cities. Los Angeles, however, has an unfortunate distinction: More than 650,000 children there live at risk of going hungry, more than in any other county in the United States. That's a population larger than the entire state of Wyoming, or roughly the same number of people who live in the District of Columbia.

These results come from a new study by the hunger-relief organization Feeding America, which has mapped county-by-county rates of overall food insecurity, child food insecurity, food-insecure homes unlikely to qualify for federal food stamps, as well as the uneven geography of what it costs these families to buy a meal when they can afford it.

Across the country, food-insecure Americans spend an average of $2.67 per meal. But that number is as high as $4.37 in Traverse City, Michigan, or $3.91 in New York City, meaning that while hunger is unevenly distributed across the country, so too are the costs of overcoming it.

You can navigate and zoom in on the full maps here. But below is the national picture of food insecurity, with the darkest shaded counties having insecurity rates of 30 percent or more (the map above shows food insecurity among children). Mississippi, the poorest state in the country, has eight of the 10 counties nationwide with the highest rates of food insecurity:

Feeding America

About the Author

  • Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific StandardGOODThe Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.