Hunger in the United States is more prevalent, more invisible, and more difficult to solve than many people would imagine. Nearly a quarter of Americans report experiencing regular food challenges, and more than 10 percent of US households are “food-insecure,” meaning they lack access to enough food to support an active, healthy life for all household members on a daily basis. As a result, 37 percent of adults received some type of food assistance from a nonprofit organization or a government service to help feed their household in the last year, according to a 2021 study by Impact Genome and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The problem persists because, despite spending billions on food programs each year, the root causes of hunger remain unaddressed. One key reason: Researchers rarely ask the hungry what they really need to maintain regular access to nutritious, quality food and so interventions aren’t accurately targeted to or measured against those needs. As a researcher in social impact, I’m focused on impact science—identifying interventions that create lasting impact across a range of social problems and measuring their cost per outcome, including food security. When it comes to stopping hunger, I want every penny to count.

At Impact Genome, we now have developed a tool to address the first part of the food security conundrum—identifying which specific outcomes are being achieved, by whom, where, and at what cost. It’s called the Impact Genome Registry, a repository for impact data on more than 2.2 million nonprofits and social programs in the US and Canada, including a portfolio of verified programs that address food insecurity. It’s how we can begin to use impact science to vet interventions, measure their cost, and create feedback systems to steer money to the most effective solutions.

Read the full article about solving hunger by Heather King at Stanford Social Innovation Review.