Food insecurity is widespread in Central Indiana. Marion County residents struggling to put meals on their tables jumped from 20% in February to more than 25% now. The Indy Hunger Network released its 2020 Meal Gap Study, and the statistics are stark. The need for food assistance nearly doubled from February to June.

As a board member of the Indy Hunger Network, I am all too aware that hunger spans race and ethnicity, cuts across socioeconomic status, affects Hoosiers of all ages, and ultimately has a negative impact on our broader society. If we want a healthy community and thriving economy, we all must have enough to eat.

I believe we need to come together as a community and address this critical issue of helping our hungry neighbors. But first, I think it’s important that people understand what the Meal Gap Study is, what it measures and why it matters.

The 2020 Meal Gap Study analyzes the current state of the food system and food insecurity in Marion County, directly measuring the quantity of meals needed to assure enough food assistance is available for all. The meal gap is the number of additional meals needed to realize a food-secure Marion County. The study’s key findings reveal significant continuing challenges:

  • The annual meal gap is a staggering 9 million meals.
  • The meal gap nearly doubled from February to June (attributed to impacts of COVID-19).
  • African Americans are disproportionately impacted, with hunger 50% higher than the general population.
  • 45% of food-insecure households have one or more children living in the home.

This is unacceptable. To build a healthy economy we need continued prioritization on improving equity and access to nutritious food. While hunger remains a significant obstacle for far too many Indianapolis families, progress can be made if we work together.  We should not accept widespread hunger across our city. We must do more!

I am asking people to get involved. The image of the hungry differs from what it may have been in the past. The hungry are our kids, our seniors, our co-workers and our neighbors – and they need our help. Below are four simple steps that anyone can do at any time.

  1. Understand the need is still prevalent and find ways to get involved.
  2. Support legislation that maintains and enhances Federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP and WIC. These programs provide 85% of all food assistance.
  3. Give your time, talent and treasures to support local charities that are working to meet the many needs in this area.
  4. Learn more about the Meal Gap by accessing the full study at indyhunger.org.

Please join me in making a difference in the lives of hungry Hoosiers.

Dave Miner is a board member of the Indy Hunger Network and co-author of the 2020 Meal Gap Study.

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