Texas Tops Nation in Hunger Crisis, North Texas Food Bank Serves Fourth-Largest Area According to New Feeding America Study

Nearly 5 million people face hunger in Texas and an estimated 777,690 people in the North Texas Food Bank service area – more than one-third are children.

The North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) today unveiled the latest insights from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study, revealing Texas’ stark reality: it now leads the nation in food insecurity, surpassing California. Texas grapples with a food insecurity rate of 16.4%, equating to nearly 5 million individuals facing hunger, a significant increase from 2021. Alarmingly, over one-third of those affected are children.

Moreover, the study highlights the ongoing challenges within the NTFB’s 13-county service area, ranking it as the nation’s fourth-largest area of food insecurity. Approximately 777,690 individuals, or 1 in 7 people, confront food insecurity within NTFB’s service area, with children bearing a disproportionate burden. The rate of child food insecurity surged to 20.8%, reflecting a distressing rise from the previous year’s rate of 15.8%.

“While Texas boasts of being bigger in many aspects, leading the nation in food insecurity is not a badge of honor we can proudly wear,” said Trisha Cunningham, President and CEO of the North Texas Food Bank. “In the heart of North Texas, where the number of people facing hunger is greater than the populations of cities like Seattle or San Francisco, the statistic that strikes hardest is nearly 40% of those in need are children, and that is just unacceptable. Yet, amid these struggles, the North Texas Food Bank is committed to closing the hunger gap in North Texas through the dedication of generous supporters and steadfast partnerships.”

Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study, now in its 14th year, aims to provide localized insights into food insecurity. By leveraging publicly available data, the study enables organizations like NTFB to tailor their strategies to reach vulnerable populations effectively.

Key findings of Map the Meal Gap include:

  • Texas has a food insecurity rate of 16.4% or 1 in 6 with nearly 5 million people facing hunger, up from 13.7% in 2021.
  • Texas has 1,697,870 children facing hunger with a food insecurity rate of 22.8% or 1 in 4, up from 18% in 2021.
  • NTFB’s 13-county service area continues to have the fourth-highest number of people facing hunger in the nation (behind LA, New York and Houston) with a food insecurity rate of 14.2%, up from 11.9% in 2021.
  • An estimated 777,690, or 1 in 7 people, face food insecurity in NTFB’s service area.
  • NTFB has a child food insecurity rate of 20.8% with 286,860 children, or 1 in 5, up from 15.8% in 2021.
  • There continue to be disparities in who faces hunger. In the NTFB service area:
    • 1 in 4 (28%) Black persons are food insecure, up from 1 in 5 (22%) in 2021.
    • 1 in 5 (20%) Hispanic persons, up from 1 in 7 (14%) in 2021.
    • 1 in 11 (9%) White, non-Hispanic persons, up from 1 in 14 (7%) in 2021.
  • The estimated annual meal gap for NTFB’s service area is more than 146 million, compared with nearly 113 million in 2021.
  • In NTFB’s service area, 51% of those facing hunger have a family income under the SNAP threshold.
  • Map the Meal Gap data estimates the cost per meal for those living in NTFB’s service area is $3.83, up from $3.37 in 2021.
  • Dallas County makes up 52% of NTFB’s food-insecure population followed by Collin County at 17%, Denton County at 15%, and the remaining 10 counties making up 16%.

Food Insecurity by County in North Texas Food Bank’s Service Area

County2021 Food Insecurity Rate2022 Food Insecurity Rate2021 # of food insecure2022 # of food insecure2021 Child food insecurity rate2022 Child food insecurity rate2021 # of children food insecure2022 # of children food insecure
Collin10.1%12.1%   105,320   130,74010.2%14.7%      27,330      40,060
Dallas13.1%15.6%   340,260   406,34019.8%25.0%   134,560   166,590
Delta15.1%16.1%           790           85019.6%24.2%           250           290
Denton*10.2%12.5%      90,550   114,18010.9%15.7%      23,620      34,320
Ellis10.4%13.1%      19,580      25,54014.0%19.4%        7,060        9,970
Fannin13.8%16.1%        4,880        5,79015.9%21.5%        1,200        1,640
Grayson13.7%15.7%      18,350      21,57017.3%22.7%        5,570        7,390
Hopkins13.6%16.4%        4,970        6,05016.5%22.8%        1,500        2,050
Hunt14.2%16.2%      14,060      16,47018.0%23.1%        4,290        5,580
Kaufman10.8%13.3%      15,190      19,92014.6%19.7%        5,750        8,310
Lamar16.4%18.1%        8,180        9,07022.6%28.4%        2,710        3,400
Navarro14.4%17.9%        7,450        9,44018.7%25.4%        2,570        3,430
Rockwall8.3%10.6%        8,760      11,7309.0%13.0%        2,560        3,830

*Denton County service is shared with Tarrant Area Food Bank – each responsible for 50%

NTFB’s current strategic plan addresses this elevated need by providing Food for Today and Hope for Tomorrow. In FY22, NTFB provided access to nearly 137 million nutritious meals, and an additional 144 million meals in FY23 by maximizing food distribution through members of its feeding network. Through partnerships with over 500 food pantries and organizations, NTFB endeavors to meet the diverse needs of individuals across its service area. Together with its redistribution partners, Crossroads Community Services in South Dallas and Sharing Life in Mesquite, NTFB provides daily access to about 400,000 meals.

With 90 percent of the food being distributed through this feeding network, NTFB believes investing in its feeding partners will ultimately transform the lives of its neighbors. Thanks to donors’ generosity, the NTFB awarded more than $6 million in grants to nearly 70 partner agencies last year. These grants helped community organizations in NTFB’s feeding network to add or repair refrigeration, expand their food pantries, purchase trucks for the transportation of food, and establish or expand wraparound services such as vocational and financial literacy classes.

Understanding where neighbors facing hunger live is critical so that NTFB can work to ensure they have access to food. The food bank uses the Feeding America data and the Hunger Action Map, a comprehensive report developed in partnership with Bain Consulting, to look at regional demographic information and work with its Partner Network to distribute food in zip codes with high unmet needs. For example, in Dallas County, 18% of the people facing hunger reside in 10 South and Southern Dallas zip codes. Last year, NTFB provided approximately 10 million meals to residents living in those 10 codes through 160 feeding programs and partners like Crossroads Community Services, serving as a distribution hub and nearly $1 million in grants that directly impacted feeding partners serving those communities.

NTFB’s Hope for Tomorrow strategy focuses on building more connected, self-sufficient, food-secure communities by addressing the underlying factors that lead to food insecurity. NTFB is adding food in places where neighbors are already utilizing healthcare or other services and supporting partners, as they provide financial empowerment, workforce development, and other resources. The food bank is also continuing to build its Nutrition Services to empower neighbors to make healthy choices.

NTFB’s Social Service Assistance team also helps low-income families apply for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In Texas, SNAP, formerly known as “food stamps,” is a crucial resource for 3.7 million low-income Texans who rely on it to help feed their families. One out of every nine Texans receives SNAP benefits. Still, only seven out of 10 eligible Texans are enrolled in SNAP, one of the country’s lowest participation rates.

Policy and advocacy play pivotal roles in addressing the multifaceted issue of food insecurity. As 44% of the meals that NTFB provided access to last year were tied to government programs, advocating for policies that seek to close the hunger gap at the federal, state, and local levels is critical to providing sustainable solutions to food insecurity. Through well-crafted policies, governments can implement structural changes that bolster food security by ensuring equitable access to the nutritious food and resources needed to thrive.

Cunningham concluded, “Empowered by the unwavering support of our community, the North Texas Food Bank stands as a beacon in the fight against hunger. With every donation of food, funds, and time, we fortify our mission and extend our reach. Together, with our dedicated partners and volunteers, we form a lifeline of compassion, delivering hope and sustenance to those in need. In unity, we nourish not just bodies, but spirits, overcoming barriers to food security one meal at a time.”

To learn how food insecurity impacts your community, visit FeedingAmerica.org/MaptheMealGap. For more information about the North Texas Food Bank and how to help end hunger in North Texas, visit www.ntfb.org.