Montgomery County on Tuesday launched an interactive online tool that sheds light on food insecurity across the area, highlighting concentrations of need in parts of Silver Spring, White Oak and Gaithersburg.
Officials and advocates have spent about a year creating FoodStat, a website designed to inform the county effort to increase access to safe, nutritious food. Developing the site was a recommendation included in the county’s five-year strategic plan for addressing nutritional needs in Montgomery County, where an estimated 63,800 people are food insecure.
The tool uses income data, federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program rates, school system information and data to examine the county through the lens of food.
“So we can bring together data around where are the populations that have the greatest concentrations of food insecure residents,” said Heather Bruskin, executive director of the nonprofit Montgomery County Food Council.
The map shows some of the highest levels of food insecurity in census tracts on the eastern side of the county, with some additional concentrations around Gaithersburg.
The county debuted the website Tuesday morning at the Executive Office Building in Rockville.
Bruskin said one particular challenge for ensuring food security in Montgomery County is the area’s high cost of living. A number of residents earn too much to qualify for various forms of government assistance but not enough to pay all of their bills, she said.
“Ultimately, that’s the greatest barrier in Montgomery County, and it’s nicely illustrated in FoodStat,” she said.
Mobility and accessibly are other factors in food insecurity; many people don’t live within walking distance of a grocery store or markets that offer culturally diverse foods, she said.
Bruskin said the site will be updated as new data is released, so users can track the changes in food insecurity in the county.
Bethany Rodgers can be reached at email@example.com.