Food Security Dashboard

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Overview of Tool

This tool allows users to explore how the food insecurity rate (the % of the population that meets the USDA definition for "food insecure" or "very food insecure") is estimated to change over time in Minnesota at the county and census tract levels. The dashboard also compares projected need with an estimate of past food distributions by local food resources (explained in the Definitions section).

Adjusting the Time slider at the top left of the screen changes the quarterly time period depicted in the map and in the data tables on the right-hand side. Each dot on the map represents a food shelf in Minnesota. Currently, the map includes food shelves listed as community food resources by the MN Department of Education here (Community Resources -> Food Resources). We welcome community input to identify additional food shelves.

In addition, filters on the left allow the user to identify geographic areas that meet specific criteria related to estimated food insecurity levels, our "food gap" metric, and the four Social Vulnerability themes from the CDC (socioeconomic status, minority status, household composition and disability, and housing/transportation). Each of these indicators is described in detail in the Definitions and Methodology section.

Definitions & Methodology

Food Insecurity Rate: This represents the proportion of individuals in a county or census tract that meet the USDA definition for food insecurity. Our approach to estimating future food insecurity utilizes Feeding America’s "Map the Meal Gap" research, demographic and economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau and projections of county-level unemployment rates to create a forward-looking view of how food security could evolve in Minnesota through 2023.

Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” research provides an equation showing the historical relationship between the food insecurity rate and publicly available data on unemployment, poverty, homeownership, and other demographic variables. By combining the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau and county-level estimates of unemployment from Minnesota Management and Budget, we have projected food insecurity rates using the “Map the Meal Gap” equation. Census tract food insecurity estimates use census tract economic and demographic data in combination with county-level unemployment estimates.

Food Gap: Our food gap metric compares projected food need with an estimate of how much food local food shelves have supplied historically. Because the pandemic sparked an extraordinary increase in food distribution in 2020 and 2021, 2019 was selected as the pre-pandemic baseline year to compare against. This allows users to compare future food need with more typical distribution levels before the pandemic-driven surge.  This comparison provides additional context but should not be interpreted as a real-time food-deficit estimate. The Food Gap metric does not account for participation in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps.

Projected food need is estimated by translating the estimated county-level food insecurity rates into an estimated number of food insecure individuals and then calculating the pounds of food needed to address this food insecurity. Our approach to this is consistent with Feeding America’s approach and takes into account the average number of months in a year in which a food-insecure person experiences food insecurity (seven months of the year according to 2019 USDA data), the average weekly food budget deficit per person when they are food insecure ($17.24), the average per meal cost ($3.09) according to the 2018 Census Bureau Community Population Survey (CPS), and the estimated pounds of food per meal (1.2 lbs) according to USDA.

Our estimate of the pre-pandemic baseline of food distributions is based on the highest monthly food tonnage supplied by food shelves within a county in 2019 according to data from Hunger Solutions, translated into a quarterly figure.

In the “Food Gap” filter, “No Food Gap” refers to counties in which the estimate of historical food supplied by food shelves is greater than the projected food need. Note that counties could have high predicted food insecurity rates and still be considered “No Food Gap” if the amount of food historically distributed through area food shelves exceeds estimated future need.

Social and Demographic Characteristics Filters: Data from the CDC's social vulnerability index (SVI) as of Fall 2021 are provided to offer additional context surrounding intersectional challenges a particular locale may face. Because the federal SVI data are updated annually, they do not update with the quarterly time slider of the dashboard.

The Social Vulnerability Index uses U.S. Census data to determine the relative social vulnerability of every census tract in the U.S. The SVI ranks each tract on 14 social factors and groups them into four related themes; socioeconomic status (relative community concentration of people below the poverty line, unemployed, low income, or with no high school diploma), racial and ethnic diversity (relative community concentration of people who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color or with low English language proficiency), household status (relative community concentration of people 65 and older, 17 and younger, with a disability, or single-parent households), and housing and transportation status (relative community concentration of people living in multi-unit structure mobile homes, crowded housing, group quarters, or with no vehicle).

The SVI provides a separate ranking for each census tract for each of the four themes, as well as an overall ranking. These rankings are based on the proportion of the population in a geographic area that meet specific criteria (e.g. income, housing status). Dashboard users can filter across each of these four themes. For more information see the CDC’s website on the Social Vulnerability Index here.

Food Shelves: The food shelves depicted in the map represent community food resources listed by the MN Department of Education here as of Nov. 2021 (Community Resources -> Food Resources). Please contact us at [email protected] if you have information on additional food shelves that can be added to the dashboard.

Filter Calculations: Each filter category can be viewed in terms of quartiles (bottom 25%, middle 50% or top 25%) based on the county or census tract estimates relative to other values in the state.  For example, the Food Insecurity Rate can be filtered by the Least Food Insecure (bottom 25%), Middle 50%, or Most Food Insecure (top 25%) counties or census tracts relative to the rest of the state. 

Institute on the Environment

Questions or comments? Contact [email protected]

Your feedback on the Dashboard is greatly appreciated as we work to make continuous improvements.

Take the Food Security Dashboard Survey!