As you know, we love good data visualizations. When the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) sent us a press release about its annual award winners, we were intrigued by their description of Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap (MMG) project. It won the Association’s Policy Impact Award.
Feeding America collects tremendous amounts of data on food insecurity. They took their data and their knowledge of the topic to create their Map the Meal Gap map. It allows anyone to find out, for their own state and county, just how many children and their parents don’t have enough to eat.
I immediately looked up my own state and was horrified to find the rate so high, given the overall wealth of our state:
I imagine that the Map the Meal Gap maps probably had similar effects on others who checked out their own states and counties.
As AAPOR describes it:
Combining analyses at the national, state, county, and congressional district levels, the MMG methodology showed how the number of people who were food insecure in 2020 may have risen to more than 50 million, including 17 million children. Because of Map the Meal Gap, millions of people are learning about Feeding America and the state of hunger in our country. In addition, we are seeing consistent use of the data in a variety of articles about food insecurity. Map the Meal Gap is a vital resource in building relationships between legislative staff and members of the Feeding America network. The study’s up-to-date and in-depth data help shape conversations and convey the realities of hunger within congressional districts, enabling policymakers to make informed decisions.
For example, the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty joined the fight against childhood hunger during the pandemic with the Emergency Meals-To-You program. This Program uses MMG data to help identify eligible school districts that led to the delivery of over 28 million meals to around 270,000 children in rural communities in 43 states around the country.
Feeding America has also developed a suite of data-driven tools for network members to use in their advocacy efforts to protect and strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is the first line of defense against hunger for many families. These include executive summaries of key findings and policy implications, a list of the top 10% of counties with the largest gaps between SNAP benefits and the actual cost of a meal among low-income households, and sample tweets and other pre-prepared social media content.
It’s a circuitous route from looking at a map to actual policy change and then to more food in the mouths of children. We honor Feeding America for creating compelling data visualizations, and for making giant strides to help solve the problem. For that we name them our Measurement Maven of the Month. Congrats! ∞