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Food Insecurity Levels Not Seen Since the Great Recession

Recent data released by Feeding America has unveiled a significant surge in food insecurity levels not seen since the Great Recession. Within Foodlink's 10-county service area, the food insecurity rate rose from 9.3% in 2021 to 12% in 2022, marking the latest available data from the "Map the Meal Gap" study. This study offers detailed local estimates of food insecurity and costs in every county across the country.

The one-year increase translated to an additional 33,580 individuals experiencing food insecurity in the region, bringing the total number up from 118,240 to 151,820. Food insecurity, as defined by the USDA, refers to a household's inadequate access to sufficient food for an active and healthy life.

Each of the 10 counties served by Foodlink experienced notable upticks in food insecurity. Allegany County reported the highest rate at 14.3% (6,770 individuals), while Wyoming County saw the most substantial single-year increase of 3.6 percentage points. In Rochester, data indicates that the 14605 zip code, encompassing the Upper Falls and Marketview Heights neighborhoods, holds the third-highest food insecurity rate in the state at 29.8%.

LaVada Howard from Straight from the Heart Community Outreach, which operates a food pantry in the 14605 zip code area, noted a stark increase in distribution from 45 families per week to 100, with seniors and families lining up for food and essential supplies.

The rise in food insecurity is reportedly attributed to a sharp increase in food prices from 2021 to 2022, coupled with the expiration of various COVID-era federal assistance programs like Child Tax Credits, Free School Meals, and increased SNAP benefits. Recent data analyzed by Foodlink from its 200+ member organizations, including food pantries and meal programs, showed a 35% rise in visits from January to March 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

Julia Tedesco, Foodlink's President & CEO, acknowledged that the data aligns with the ongoing challenges faced by food banks across the nation and emphasized the importance of collective efforts to address the increasing needs despite rising food costs.

Key findings within Foodlink's service area include disparities in food insecurity rates among Black, Hispanic, and white residents, with Black and Hispanic residents facing significantly higher rates. Additionally, the study noted a significant portion of individuals experiencing hunger do not qualify for SNAP benefits due to income thresholds, and the childhood food insecurity rate saw a notable increase from 12.5% to 17% between 2021 and 2022.

Elsewhere, Ontario County reported a food insecurity rate of 11 to 13%, with organizations like the Partnership for Ontario County witnessing a firsthand increase in demand for their food pantry services, especially among seniors and families struggling to afford both food and medications.

While Foodlink expressed gratitude for increased funding in the state budget to support emergency food systems, they emphasized the continued need for advocacy and community support during this critical period. To access the latest "Map the Meal Gap" report or to contribute to Foodlink through donations or volunteering, visit and, respectively.

Dawn Burdick from the Rochester Hope North Clinton Food Pantry shared poignant stories illustrating the reality of food insecurity in Rochester, underscoring the urgent need for support and resources to help those facing hunger in the community.


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