The local struggle of being unable to access enough food for a healthy, happy life is highlighted in a new report that was released Friday, along with an online portal and interactive map.

The report from the Community Foundation of Louisville and the Lift a Life Foundation shows that more than 120,000 people in the Louisville area grapple with food insecurity, meaning they have limited or uncertain access to adequate food.

“Food insecurity affects all of us,” CFL program officer Ramona Lindsey said during the report’s unveiling at The Table in Portland. “It’s a much larger population than many people assume.”

And many affected individuals don’t qualify for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the report notes. They are among the people who “fall between the cracks,” Lindsey said.

Monique Kuykendoll Quarterman, left, and Ramona Lindsey, right, spoke during the release of a report on food insecurity in Louisville on Friday. | Photo by Darla Carter

Food insecurity forces many residents to choose between food and other essentials of life, and those affected could be your neighbors, co-workers, friends or relatives, according to the report called “Ending Food Insecurity: It will Take Us All.”

Food insecurity, which encompasses more than hunger, “affects working families and seniors and is not limited to those living below the poverty line,” the report notes. “For some Louisvillians, it is a long-standing, daily experience. Others cope with it for a short time. All it takes is a simple life change. A job loss, increased educational expenses, or unexpected home or auto repairs can lead to food insecurity.”

The report notes that an estimated 44,000 Louisvillians live in food deserts, which have few fresh, healthy food options, and that 20,000 older residents live a mile or more from the nearest supermarket.

“Sometimes the reality in our community is that what you want to eat is not necessarily what is available,” 2018 Hunger Innovation Fellow Monique Kuykendoll Quarterman said.

The report, which unfolds like a large menu, is the culmination of Quarterman’s fellowship, sponsored by CFL and Lift a Life, and months of listening to the community about the state of food access in the area.

The Louisville Food Ecosystem Map is a searchable tool for food access organizations and resources.

“We did all of this so that we could create this big collection of information that we can then turn around and give back to the community to inspire change, collaboration and innovation,” she said.

The collection includes not only the report but an information portal and The Louisville Food Ecosystem Map, a tool to find food pantries, community gardens and other food access resources.

“It puts all of our food community in one place … to really demonstrate the power of us all working together,” Quarterman said. It also shows where grocery stores have recently closed and where organizations are working to bring fresh, affordable food to more people in the community.

Through the portal, the public also can gain access to a public policy brief and a compilation of promising practices that are being used elsewhere in the country.

The report itself includes several suggestions for improving food access in the community, such as expanding employer-based support for employees and their families, educating and involving the community in reducing and recovering food waste to feed people, and streamlining minimum requirements for getting emergency food help.

A crowd gathered at The Table in Portland for the release of the report. | Photo by Darla Carter

The report notes that although there are many ways in the community for people to get help, from food pantries to federal assistance, individuals don’t always know how to access it or may be reluctant to do so.

“We believe those who are unserved or underserved by local resources remain so due to unfamiliar information, inconsistent eligibility, inconvenient resources, or inadequate treatment,” the report notes. “Some may avoid using food support services because they perceive these services are not meant for them.”

Also, for those seeking emergency food assistance, there are hurdles, such as needing to present various combinations of proof of address, employment or dependents, according to the report.

“It seems overwhelming,” said Ryan Burt, a health educator for Passport Health Plan, who attended the report’s release.