November 16, 2020

Marion County Meal Gap Doubles During Pandemic

FILE PHOTO/WFYI

FILE PHOTO/WFYI

A new study measures how hunger has increased in Marion County because of the COVID-19 crisis. 

The number of additional meals it would take to achieve food security is known as the meal gap. In Indianapolis that number nearly doubled  from 380,000  in February to 740,000 in June. 

Indy Hunger Network Managing Director Kate Howe said the spike was largely driven by the loss of jobs during the pandemic.

"There were a lot of people who were out of work and were seeking assistance maybe for the first time or the first time in a long time," Howe said. 

The timing of the study allows a first look at the meal gap since the pandemic hit. The Indy Hunger Network conducted a February assessment and can now take a comparative look.

Howe said the gap increased even though the meal supply -- including increased government programs and nonprofit assistance -- nearly doubled during the same time.

"But it just still wasn’t enough because the need increased so rapidly," Howe said, "and our great concern is that these programs are running out, many of them at the end of this year."

According to the assessment, Marion County’s overall food insecurity rate rose from 20 to 28 percent. Black residents and families with children face the highest hunger rates.

Howe says food assistance programs are in need of financial donations and volunteer help.

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