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Study shows record high rates of food insecurity

One in three children will experience food insecurity this year because of the COVID-19, according to the annual Map the Meal Gap study released Tuesday by Three Square Food Bank.

The 2020 Feeding America Map the Meal Gap results reveal a significant increase in food insecurity across Southern Nevada. In the absence of COVID-19, the food insecurity rate was estimated to remain at 12.9 percent, or one in eight individuals. The impact of COVID-19 on unemployment will increase these numbers to 20.5 percent, equivalent to one in five individuals — or approximately 447,820 people — experiencing food insecurity.

The study also shows that more children will be living in food-insecure households. Prior to the pandemic, the child food insecurity rate was estimated to be 19.5 percent. Because of COVID-19, that rate will increase to 33.4 percent, or approximately 171,510 children, in Southern Nevada that are living in a food-insecure household.

The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as limited or uncertain access to enough food to live an active, healthy life.

“Southern Nevada is ground zero for the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19,” said Brian Burton, president and CEO of Three Square Food Bank. “The vital and life-giving role of our mission is now on full display, as millions of newly unemployed people turn to our nation’s food banks for life’s most basic essential: food. Though we are facing a food insecurity crisis unlike anything we have ever seen, Three Square remains committed to distributing food during this difficult time and serving as a positive force for the people who rely on us most.”

According to the study, approximately 447,820 people – 20.5 percent of people in Southern Nevada, defined as Clark, Lincoln, Nye and Esmeralda counties, will not be able to secure enough food for themselves and their families for extended periods during this year. Clark County, including the greater Las Vegas Valley, accounts for 97 percent of the total food-insecure population in Southern Nevada.

Additional findings from the national study specific to Southern Nevada include food-insecure residents will miss approximately 76 million meals this year, the equivalent of about 170 missing meals per person; food-insecure individuals miss an average of 5.6 meals per week; and the average weekly food budget shortfall is $18.03 per person across Three Square’s service area. For a family of four, this equates to approximately $2,188 annually.

The study is supported by the founding sponsor Howard G. Buffett Foundation as well as the ConAgra Foods Foundation and Nielsen. The lead researcher is Dr. Craig Gundersen, professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois, executive director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and member of Feeding America’s Technical Advisory Group.

Additional food insecurity details and the complete Map the Meal Gap report will be available at map.feedingamerica.org.

Established in 2007, Three Square Food Bank offers wholesome, nutritious food to nonprofit and faith-based organizations, schools and feeding sites that serve a wide range of Southern Nevadans.

A national model project inspired by founder Eric Hilton with a grant provided by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Three Square is a community collaborative partnership with businesses, nonprofit agencies, food distributors, higher education institutions, the Clark County School District, governmental entities, the media and thousands of volunteers to efficiently and effectively work together to serve those in our community struggling with hunger.

Three Square currently provides more than 41 million meals – the equivalent of more than 50 million pounds of food and grocery products – per year through a network of community partners. Three Square is a member of the Feeding America network of food banks. For additional information visit threesquare.org. Follow Three Square on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@threesquarelv).

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