You must enable cookies for this web site to function properly.

Mapping the Meal Gap


Stories and statistics of hunger in southeast Michigan


More than 770,000 people face hunger in our region. That’s enough people to fill Comerica Park nearly 19 times. 

Hunger exists in every community across southeast Michigan. Every county is home to children who only have access to nutritious meals while at school and who must go without after school and on the weekends. Every county is home to seniors who are skipping meals in order to pay for medical prescriptions or to heat their home during the winter. And every county is home to hardworking families who just can’t make ends meet and whose members go hungry as a result.      

Here are some of your neighbors that Gleaners is helping:

BernadetteBernadette of New Haven, Macomb County

Bernadette was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009. She is now in remission but needs radiation treatments every three months, the effects of which prevent her from being able to work. As a result, she is on disability, which isn’t enough to meet her basic living expenses. Last year, Bernadette found Gleaners’ partner, Hope Center, in Macomb. At Hope Center, Bernadette receives 50 pounds of emergency food six times a year. She stretches that supply into as many meals as possible by selecting mostly canned vegetables and frozen chicken to make soups.

Karen CoombsKaren Coombs of Waterford, Oakland County

Thirty years ago, Karen and her husband became licensed foster parents. Over the years, they cared for many children and adopted seven, in addition to raising three children of their own. Now in their 60s, the Coombses are still rearing three adopted boys, ages seven, nine and 13. When they adopted the boys, Karen recalls, “I worried if we were doing the children justice [because of our age], but we were all they knew. No one else was there to take them in.” 

The Coombses carefully budgets the family’s money. Nonetheless, quality and variety of food is something they must compromise, getting by mostly on peanut butter and jelly, hot dogs and potato flakes. The produce and protein they receive through Gleaners school-mobile pantry allow Karen to prepare “real, home-cooked meals” for her growing boys, she says. 

“The first time they had real mashed potatoes, they couldn’t believe it. They said, ‘Mom, these are GOOD!’” Karen beams. “The cost of everything has gone so far up, but my husband’s income hasn’t gone up. We are lucky enough that he is working, so we are not as bad off as a lot of people are, but it still makes it slim pickings.”   

Thomas FranksThomas Franks of Detroit, Wayne County

Thomas went into the military straight out of high school, staying active for many years. When he returned to civilian life, he struggled to find a job, though he had years of experience as a military aircraft controller. Thomas didn’t have any family members he could turn to, and so he sought temporary housing at the Detroit Veterans Center, where Gleaners food is provided. Thomas has since found a job and is on his way to living independently.


Southeast Michigan Meal Gap 


Food insecurity* rate 

Estimated number food insecure individuals (rounded) 

Total food-budget shortfall reported by the food insecure in 20104 

  The "Meal Gap" 





Livingston County










Macomb County










Monroe County










Oakland County










Wayne County















*Food insecurity means a limited or uncertain availability of food for a household.

Source: Map the Meal Gap Report, 2010 data, Feeding America released 2012