Food insecurity

Updated 3/27/19 – *Note that this measure is also a physical determinant of health

The County Health Rankings estimate food insecurity as the percentage of the population who did not have access to a reliable source of food during the past year.

County Health Ranking notes:

  • 2012 rankings used 2006 data
  • 2013 rankings used 2010 data
  • 2014 rankings used 2010-11 data

The Food Research and Action Center analyzes survey data collected as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project to calculate food hardship rates for states, including by Congressional District and the 100 largest MSA’s. The Nevada food hardship rate indicates the extent to which Nevadans are struggling with hunger, reporting they didn’t have the money in the past 12 months to buy the food the food they or their family needed.

The USDA developed a “scaling tool” to define and track food security and hunger among households, providing the following definitions:

  • Food security — Access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life including at a minimum: (1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods; and (2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (e.g., without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).
  • Food insecurity — Limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

The Food Bank of Northern Nevada’s service area includes 14 northern Nevada counties and portions of 7 eastern California counties;  approximately 63% of clients reside and 69% of food resources are distributed in Washoe County. The causes of food insecurity are complex and not always linked to poverty. Food distribution is important for individuals and families seeking emergency food assistance but addressing the causes of food insecurity will have positive spillover impacts across a wide array of quality of life indicators.

Children from food-insecure homes are more likely to have poorer mental and overall health, are sick and hospitalized more often, and miss more days of school. Older adults with inadequate diets are vulnerable to disease and require longer recovery from disease. This all adds up to increased costs for Nevadans. Assisting eligible families to receive federal earned income and child tax credits due to them is a first step to food security. In-school nutrition education is critical to our children’s futures. While training and employment programs, safe and affordable childcare, and alternative transportation options can help facilitate families transitioning to economic independence.

Kids Count notes:

  • Data are lagged, 3-year averages
  • Children under age 18 living in households, where in the previous 12 months, there was an uncertainty of having, or an inability to acquire, enough food for all household members because of insufficient money or other resources.

America’s Health Ranking notes:

  • Data are lagged 3 years
  • Marginally food insecure based on the Core Food Security Module survey


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, County Health Rankings;

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Kids Count Data Center;

Food Research and Action Center;

Food Bank of Northern Nevada;

America’s Health Rankings

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