We hope that the dashboard will be a useful tool for anyone who chooses to look at it, including those who are not food systems “experts”. For those who would like more context, we have developed these introductory resources. Data and materials here are about the whole New England food system (not just the part related to institutions).

Many Americans, including children, deal with hunger on a daily basis. Others depend on federal subsidy programs which don't provide enough money for a healthy diet. Many who are affected by these economic inequalities rely on highly processed food which lead to obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related disease. 

This page provides background about income, health, and food access in the U.S. It uses data from the U.S. Census, the USDA Food Atlas, the Centers for Disease Control, and other sources to show the health impacts of the food system and the implications of poverty on both food access and health.

Percent of New England Students Eligible for Free & Reduced-Price Lunch

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. In New England, almost 40 percent of children (over 750,000) are eligible for this program. In many schools the program has changed for the better in recent years to include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

New England Household Food Insecurity, 2011-2013 (Three-Year Average)

Food insecurity is defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. In America there are more than 800 million people who experience hunger or concern about food access every day. Across New England hundreds of thousands of people are food insecure, and no state is without hungry people.

Source: USDA Economic Research Service estimated these figures using three years of data from the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement, as reported in Table 5 in Household Food Security in the United States in 2012

Percent of New England Children in Poverty

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty More than 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level. Research has shown that poverty can contribute to poor health. Poverty rates in the New England states range from 10.9% in New Hampshire to 22% in Rhode Island.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program, State & County Estimates for 2013

Number of New England Residents to Receive SNAP (formerly Food Stamp) Benefits 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal nutrition program in the U.S, It provides food-purchasing assistance for people with low or no income. SNAP benefits cost $74.1 billion in fiscal year 2014 and supplied 46.5 million Americans with an average of $125.35 per person per month in food assistance. In New England over 11.2 million people depended on SNAP to buy the food they need in 2014.

Source: USDA Food & Nutrition Service, Monthly SNAP Data

Percent of Obese New England Adults & Adolescents

Obesity is epidemic in America. It is a serious, chronic disease that can have a negative effect on the body on many levels. People who are overweight or obese have a much greater risk of developing serious health conditions including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and bone and joint disease. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 35% of women, 31% of men, and 15% of children between the ages of six and 19 are overweight or obese. Statistics for the New England states are lower than average but still alarming.

Source: Center for Disease Control Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System