Millions of children are struggling with hunger in every U.S. county, regardless of whether they live in homes below or above the poverty level, according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization.
The group’s new study, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011
,” found the percentage of hungry U.S. children range from a low of 7 percent in Steele County, North Dakota, to a high of 50 percent in both the Zavala and Starr counties in Texas.
The study, which for the first time broke down data at the most basic, local levels, also stressed that food insecurity among children cuts across every congressional district.
“The prevalence and consequences of our nation’s child food insecurity problem are well documented, but our efforts to adequately address the problem have been hindered by a lack of data at the local level,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America. “This new information addresses this need by providing first-ever data about the prevalence of child food insecurity at the county and congressional district level.”
Among the key findings of the study, which was funded in part by the ConAgra Foods Foundation, are:
• There are three counties where the lack of access to nutritional foods impacts more than 300,000 children and 16 counties where at least 100,000 children are struggling with hunger issues;
• There are 314 counties where one-third of the youth population is considered food insecure;
• 30 percent of the counties in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, and Tennessee have some of the highest rates of food insecurity; and
• An increasing number of children are becoming ineligible for federal nutrition programs because their household income is above the poverty threshold.
According to the Department of Agriculture, more than 17 million children go hungry
— or don’t have adequate access to nutritional foods
— on a daily basis, and nationwide more than 50 million people are considered to be food insecure.
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