The 2013 Missouri Hunger Atlas is the third of such studies performed by the MU Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security. The team at MU released previous studies in 2008 and 2010.
The Missouri Hunger Atlas collects food insecurity statistics down to the county level, something the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn't do. The federal department collects statistics on food insecurity at the state level annually.
"We did it because nobody else does," said Sandy Rikoon, Missouri Hunger Atlas' lead researcher. "We kind of stepped into a gap because the data wasn't there."
The Missouri Hunger Atlas is limited in that it is a statistical model rather than an actual statewide survey of households. MU researchers relied on poverty data and enrollment in state and federal food assistance programs to predict the number of food-insecure households in Missouri.
Rikoon said he and his team would like to conduct an actual food insecurity survey in Missouri but they don't have the funding needed to perform such a comprehensive study.
Like the data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Hunger Atlas classifies families into three categories: food secure, food insecure and very low food security.
Rikoon said the Hunger Atlas is an important study for food banks, policymakers and citizens.
Rikoon said he hopes the Hunger Atlas will be released every two to three years.