What are “Hunger Hotspots?”: Confronting the Issue of Childhood Nutrition in America

A mother laughing with her infant child

Childhood food insecurity affects all corners of our nation — but some communities are left disproportionately hungrier than others.  

Across the U.S., there are approximately 22 million American children who depend on school meal programs to receive their next meal. For them, it’s a time marked by wondering when, and from where, their next meal is coming.     


The reality is that proper childhood nutrition is a global issue: Having access to nutritious meals is a struggle for many families. According to Feeding America’s 2023 Map the Meal Gap report, children are more likely to live in a home facing hunger than to not. And that divide becomes even more stark when we look at the types of communities affected —  an alarming 9 out of 10 high food insecurity counties are from rural communities.  


So, why do these nutrition gaps exist, and what we can do to change that?  


What are “Hunger Hotspots?”  


Food insecurity exists everywhere, but not at equal frequencies. This year’s Map the Meal Gap study shows that significant food insecurity disparities continue to exist both within and across geographies. In fact, rural counties (those outside of major metropolitan areas) make up 63% of all U.S. counties but represent an alarming 89% of counties with food-insecurity rates in the top 10% (285 out of 321). The farmers are feeding the world, but struggle to feed themselves. 


One of the biggest drivers of these issues is access. “The density of resources is a key. During and following the COVID pandemic, we found that less people were traveling long distances to grocery stores and food distribution centers,” said Charlie Blazevich, Senior Manager of Corporate Partnerships at Feeding America. “We have to think about innovative ways to reach these communities where they already are, in a way that works for them.”  


Hands picking out vegetables from a box
Rural communities are more likely to be food insecure than their urban counterparts.
CREDIT: Map the Meal Gap/Feeding America  


How Can We Make a Difference?  


At Bayer, we’re working every day to achieve our vision of Health for All, Hunger for None. That’s why we’re making incredible leaps in advancing health and agriculture, so that every American can lead longer, healthier, more dignified lives. But part of that work is addressing these very prevalent issues of childhood hunger — work that needs the help of important partners, including:  


  1. Here’s to the Farmer: Since 2015, Bayer has joined musician Luke Bryan and grocery store chain Kroger annually to celebrate America’s farmers for providing us with access to critical health and nutrition through its #HeresToTheFarmer campaign. Since the partnership’s inception, 6 million meals have been donated and more than $180,000 has been directed to Feeding America member food banks and local farmers at each of the tour cities. 
  2. Vitamin Angels: As the global leader in prenatal supplements, Bayer understands how important essential vitamins and minerals are for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Bayer’s partnership with Vitamin Angels aims to support 4 million pregnant women and their babies, annually, gain access to essential multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS, commonly known as prenatal vitamins and minerals). The partnership improves access to MMS, which includes direct interventions, nutrition literacy and advocating for MMS to be a part of the standard of care around the world — all focused on supporting women and ensuring their children lead healthier, more productive lives. 
  3. Nutrient Gap Initiative: Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are a major public health problem in underserved communities, and women and children are particularly vulnerable. Deficiencies in iron, B12, folic acid, Vitamin C and other essential micronutrients can lead to reduced immunity, increased fatigue and impaired physical and mental growth. The consequences of vitamin and mineral deficiencies worsen gradually over time, resulting in an increased potential risk of significant health consequences across one’s lifespan, which ultimately exacerbates the cycle of poverty. The Nutrient Gap Initiative is our effort to enable access to vitamins and minerals to underserved communities who might not receive those nutrients through food. Through intervention, education and advocacy, are reversing the cycle of malnutrition to help people grow properly, raise healthier families and lead better lives. 


Feeding the Future  


As an organization with major reach in the nutrition community that is also committed to Health for All, Hunger for None, Bayer has a unique opportunity to make an impact and change the reality of childhood hunger. But in addition to partnering with critical nonprofits, we must continue to put pressure on our governments to fund federal programs like SNAP — our nation’s most effective hunger-relief program.  


As we look to the future, our partners like Feeding America are urging Congress to help ensure families and children have access to the food they need by strengthening critical nutrition programs, like SNAP, in the 2023 Farm Bill. Protecting and strengthening SNAP is vital to help achieve food security in the U.S. — last year, alone, SNAP helped approximately 40 million people put food on the table.   


“We're extremely grateful to partners like Bayer, Bayer employees and to individuals and retailers in the communities we operate in, for making this important work possible,” said Blazevich. “Together we’re doing the work we need to do to keep America’s children healthy and moving forward.”  


Learn more about Bayer’s purpose-driven work to provide Health for All, Hunger for None.   

5 min read