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“Meal Gap” Study Paints a Detailed Portrait of Food Insecurity in Maine

Study shows more than 34 million meals missing from Maine tables in 2010

Auburn, ME — Approximately 200,000 people – or fifteen percent of the population – in Maine are food insecure, meaning that they don’t always know where they will find their next meal, according to new research by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, and Good Shepherd Food Bank.

The findings result from Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” study, which provides estimates on the rate of food insecurity at the county and congressional district level for the entire nation. The study further analyzes each county’s food insecure population to determine income eligibility for federal nutrition assistance. Findings show that 40 percent of Maine’s food insecure population does not qualify for the SNAP program, commonly known as food stamps. 

“We hear from our partner food pantries and soup kitchens that they have seen extremely high demand for assistance in the past 3 years,” says Clara McConnell, Communications Manager at Good Shepherd Food Bank. “This data helps us understand that need in a new way. With such as large portion of the food insecure population ineligible for food stamps or other government programs, they must rely on Good Shepherd Food Bank and our partners to feed themselves and their families.”

“Map the Meal Gap” also uses county-level data on food costs from The Nielsen Company to break down the food budget shortfall of our residents into an approximation of the meals missing from the tables of people at risk of hunger in Maine each year. The additional food dollars needed by Maine families struggling with hunger each year is estimated at 93.2 million dollars.

This gap in the food budget equates to more than 34 million missing meals in Maine in 2010. Government programs and nonprofit hunger-relief organizations work to fill the meal gap, but it is clear that, as the rate of food insecurity remains high, additional resources are needed.

In a departure from the standard of measuring meals in pounds, “Map the Meal Gap” estimates the relative cost of a meal, adjusting the national average of $2.52 per meal according to food prices in each county. The study shows that, in Maine, the average meal price is $2.73, significantly higher than the national average. “Map the Meal Gap” also allows food costs to be compared across counties, showing that Piscataquis and Lincoln counties have the highest food costs in Maine.

“We know hunger exists in every state across the nation, but it looks different from county to county, and therefore, so do the solutions,” says McConnell. “The results of this study show that the best way for us to help people facing hunger is to understand who is hungry and why they are hungry at the local level.”

Map the Meal Gap provides the following data for Maine and each of its counties in an interactive map format:

  • The percentage of the population who is food insecure.
  • The percentage of the food insecure population who qualify based on income for SNAP (Foods Stamps) and other federal nutrition programs.
  • The percentage of the food insecure population who do NOT qualify for federal nutrition programs and often must rely on charitable food assistance programs and who also need better wages and employment opportunities to help them meet their basic needs.
  • The average price per meal, based on new research by The Nielsen Company.

This is the second year that Feeding America has conducted the “Map the Meal Gap” study. Findings for Maine in the 2012 study remained relatively unchanged from 2011. 

The findings of “Map the Meal Gap” are based on statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and food price data and analysis provided by The Nielsen Company (NYSE: NLSN), a global information and measurement company providing insights into what consumers watch and buy. The study was supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and Nielsen.

“Map the Meal Gap” provides critical information-food insecurity rates for each county and congressional district. Prior to the study’s first release in March 2011, food insecurity data was only available at the state level in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual report. This data has the potential to redefine the way service providers and policy makers address areas of need.

A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available on Feeding America’s web site at

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About Good Shepherd Food-Bank

The largest hunger relief organization in Maine, Good Shepherd Food-Bank provides for those at risk of hunger by acquiring surplus and purchased food and distributing that food to more than 600 partner agencies across Maine.  Since 1981, the Food-Bank has partnered with individuals, businesses, and farmers to alleviate hunger and build community relationships.  In 2011 the Food-Bank distributed 13 million pounds of food to families in need.  Phone:  (207) 782-3554; Website:; Facebook:; Twitter:

About Feeding America

Feeding America provides low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even thrive. As the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, our network members supply food to 37 million Americans each year, including nearly 14 million children and 3 million seniors. Serving the entire United States, more than 200 member food banks support 61,000 agencies that address hunger in all of its forms. For more information on how you can fight hunger in your community and across the country, visit Find us on Facebook at or follow our news on Twitter at

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For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Clara McConnell, Communications Manager at Good Shepherd Food-Bank, at or (207) 782-3554 ext. 2107.