A new report concludes nearly 13% of Iowans who live in the so-called “breadbasket” of the nation are “food insecure” — often going without meals. 

Jordan Vernoy is state director of the Iowa Food Bank Association which represents the eight food banks in the state. “Each food bank is continually seeing an increase in need as emergency feeding agencies such as pantries, community kitchens and shelters see growing numbers of individuals and families in need of assistance,” Vernoy says.

According to the “Map the Meal Gap” report, 12.8 percent of Iowans are regularly going hungry.

“The data that came from the project gives us a first-time look at the number of food insecure individuals in each county, the number of food insecure individuals in income brackets, the average cost of a meal in each county and the amount of money food insecure individuals report they need in order to meet food needs,” Vernoy says.

The study found the five counties with the highest percentage of “food insecure” residents were Lee, Appanoose, Jefferson, Decatur and Wapello.  

“The ‘Map the Meal Gap’ project shows us who is hungry and where they are,” Vernoy says.

Governor Branstad says while Iowa has some of the most-productive farmland in the world, there are still too many Iowans who cannot afford to eat three meals a day. “Food insecurity differs by county and, therefore, so do the solutions,” Branstad says. 

Hungry does not equal poor, according to Branstad, who points to the report which indicates about half of those who say they regularly go without meals live above the federal poverty level.

“Food insecurity is not a problem that just cropped up overnight,” Branstad says. “…Together, we can find long-term solutions that work in every county in the state of Iowa.”

The “Map the Meal Gap” report concludes over 382,000 Iowans are “food insecure”.