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Springfield, MO 65801-5746

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Map the Meal Gap study

Feeding America embarked on the Map the Meal Gap study to identify the need for food within each of the communities across the nation. The goal of this study was to provide a clearer picture of need in southwest Missouri in order to help Ozarks Food Harvest strategically plan for food assistance programs that best support southwest Missourians in need.

Latest data: With updated Map the Meal Gap data in hand, Ozarks Food Harvest has learned that the need for food assistance in southwest Missouri continues to be too high. More than 170,000 individuals living in southwest Missouri, or 16%, continue to face food insecurity. They are unsure of where their next meal will come from and unfortunately, 20% of these individuals have income levels that disqualify them from receiving government assistance.

Families in Pulaski & Wright Counties struggle with hunger the most—both have food insecurity rates of nearly 18%! And, in Christian & Pulaski County, nearly 40% of the food insecure families are not eligible for any federal assistance. There is no government safety-net to help them through hard times.

The Map the Meal Gap study also focuses on child food insecurity rates of children and their families’ access to government assistance programs. Based on 2012 data, it was revealed that 23.5% (61,130) of southwest Missouri children face food insecurity. That’s one in four children—and higher than the Missouri average of 22%—who face uncertainty finding their next meal and may go to bed hungry.

In Douglas, Stone & Wright Counties, nearly 30% of all children worry about where their next meal will come from. These food insecurity rates rank 4th, 6th and 7th highest in Missouri. Fortunately, many of these children eat free meals at school and their families receive SNAP (food stamps) and WIC benefits; however, 21% of food insecure children in SWMO are not eligible. That means 13,000 children in Ozarks Food Harvest’s service area must rely on charitable assistance, such as OFH, to eat their next meal.

This study demonstrated that federal nutrition programs are not currently reaching all the food insecure children across The Food Bank’s 28-county service area. In Christian County, 34% of all hungry children do not qualify for any form of government assistance. Although hunger is harmful to any individual, it is particularly devastating to children. Their increased vulnerability and potential for long-term consequences makes this issue imperative to address. Food insecurity among children impacts cognitive development, school performance and has health consequences, including increased illness and higher associated health costs.

This study verifies the need for food assistance across the Ozarks. These children, families and seniors would undoubtedly struggle even more without help from Ozarks Food Harvest and its supporters.

Adult data:

Child data:

How to read this data

Learn who is hungry. Check out the interactive map:


The findings of the Map the Meal Gap study has been supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Nielson Company and the ConAgra Foods Foundation. Findings are based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2009 American Community Survey, and food price data from the Nielson Company. For information on how the Map the Meal Gap data was produced, please see the Data Explanation or view the full Technical Brief.  

For additional information, see Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study or contact Denise Gibson, Development Director, or Cassie Hanson, Research Development Coordinator, at  (417) 865-3411.