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Charting Food Bank Usage and Demand: A Targeted Geospatial Approach to Identifying Census Tracts in Lincoln Nebraska Experiencing Food Insecurity from 2013 to 2018

Mikal Stewart, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Food banks have always existed in the United States. These institutions in more recent history have been on the periphery of society for most Americans. However, with the recent economic downturn beginning before 2008 and continuing thereafter, the use of these charitable organizations has increased, with many food banks seeing middle class patrons now in their rolls. This phenomenon would have been unheard of twenty years ago. But with the Great Recession of 2008, the middle class bore a great deal of the economic brunt through the financial crisis in the stock market, and the implosion of the mortgage market. Lincoln, compared to the nation and the state weathered this time period better, however, it did not come out of the period unscathed. Food insecurity increased, and the number of households enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), all increased following 2008. While SNAP household enrollment and household poverty have decreased steadily since 2013, the amount of food distributed by the Food Bank of Lincoln, in pounds, doubled between the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, increasing slightly in 2016, and remaining largely consistent hovering around the 6.8 to 6.9 million pound mark for 2017 and 2018. Map analysis shows that central core of the city is consistently represented as having the census tracts with the lowest median income, the highest numbers of households receiving SNAP benefits, and public elementary students enrolled in the free and reduced-price lunch program. Additionally, the median center calculated for census data on households receiving SNAP benefits and the pounds of food distributed for the BackPack Program favors the central core of the city. Mapping the Food Bank’s distribution logs from the 2014 to 2018 fiscal years shows that not only have the amount of organizations increased, but their presence can now be seen in the southern part of the city. This indicates that both lower-income and middle-class households use food bank related services. This research finds that households at risk for experiencing food insecurity in Lincoln are found in the central core, and much of the area south of O Street.

Subject Area

Geography|Urban planning

Recommended Citation

Stewart, Mikal, "Charting Food Bank Usage and Demand: A Targeted Geospatial Approach to Identifying Census Tracts in Lincoln Nebraska Experiencing Food Insecurity from 2013 to 2018" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI27667840.