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Report: Arkansas in Top Five for Hungry States

March 4, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansas ranks fifth in the country on a list of states where people say they lacked enough money to buy the food they needed at some point in the last year. That represents almost 23 percent of the state's population, according to a new report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), and it's five points higher than the national rate.

There are many causes of hunger, but in most cases, a decent job is the cure, said FRAC President Jim Weill.

"The answer is, we need more jobs at better wages. But we also need more adequate programs and in particularly, we need to make food stamp benefits more adequate," Weill asserted. "Congress keeps pushing in the other direction and keeps threatening to cut food stamp benefits, and that's just ridiculous."

The other states in the top five for food insecurity are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia.

Overall, the report says, the southeast and southwest are the two regions of the country where food hardship numbers are the highest. It also notes that SNAP or food stamp benefit levels simply are too low to enable most families to purchase enough food. When people's nutritional needs aren't met, said Weill, it can make other aspects of their lives tougher as well.

"We have a lot of families in which parents are skipping meals so kids can get enough to eat," he said. "We know from the research, that means parents and kids aren't doing as well at work and at school as they would be doing if they were consistently eating a healthy diet."

Weill believes improving SNAP benefits starts with passing a new Farm Bill in this session of Congress that protects and strengthens the program. The old five-year Farm Bill simply was extended when it expired late last year. It is one of the topics at a National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington that began on Sunday.

See the report, "Food Hardship in America 2012," at FRAC.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - AR