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National Map the Meal Gap Data Flags Growing Hunger Crisis in Arkansas

Newest data for Arkansas Foodbank’s 33-county service area highlights disparities and reveals urgent need for community action

The Arkansas Foodbank today shared new data on food insecurity within its 33-county service area, as highlighted by Feeding America’s most recent Map the Meal Gap report. The findings reveal an escalating need affecting communities throughout Arkansas, demanding immediate attention and action.

The report shows a troubling rise in the overall food insecurity rate within the Foodbank’s service area covering central and southern Arkansas, jumping from 14.5 to 17.6 percent in just one year. This increase translates to an additional 45,040 individuals who now struggle to find enough food daily.

The situation is distressing for children in central and southeast Arkansas, where the rate of food insecurity has soared from 19.6 to 25.6 percent. Currently, one in four children in these regions is considered food insecure, surpassing the statewide average where one in five children faces similar challenges.

Furthermore, the report draws attention to significant disparities among racial and ethnic groups. The food insecurity rate among Black residents in the Foodbank’s service area surged from 24 to 29 percent, impacting one in three individuals. In comparison, one in seven white individuals faces food insecurity. Hispanic communities are also disproportionately affected, with 20 percent experiencing food insecurity.

“Last October, the public may recall that the USDA ranked Arkansas number one for food insecurity. This data from Feeding America about our state, while not a surprise, is heartbreaking, and energizes all of us to rally around the solvable challenge of hunger.”

Brian Burton, CEO of the Arkansas Foodbank

Burton added, “We hear from our pantry partners every day how much pressure they are under, serving more people more often who face rising rents, food inflation, and a changing economy. The rollback of government assistance post-pandemic, which also is not a surprise, increases pressure on families already under stress. Many of these folks are working multiple jobs but not making sufficient wages. They turn to their local food pantry to supplement their households so they can keep their heads above water.”

The Arkansas Foodbank is urging stakeholders, policymakers, and residents to join forces in combating hunger. To access the full report, visit map.feedingamerica.org, and to find ways to support, visit arkansasfoodbank.org.

“The Arkansas Foodbank and our partners throughout the state’s charitable food distribution system are making strides in efficiency, focusing resources and targeting vulnerable populations like children and seniors,” said Burton. “We are asking the public to stay engaged and to continue their generous sharing with our nonprofit sector. We are the vanguards of those who fall through the social safety net when it is overextended. This is a crucial time to summon our collective will and raise our voices to place a bright spotlight on this worrisome trend in every corner of our state.”

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