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Report Ranks Arkansas 2nd for Food Insecurity

Volunteers help sort products at the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank in the Fayetteville area, one of four regional food banks in the state. (NWArkansasFoodBank)
Volunteers help sort products at the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank in the Fayetteville area, one of four regional food banks in the state. (NWArkansasFoodBank)

May 7, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Despite making some progress in recent years, a new report shows that Arkansas remains the second highest state in the country for food insecurity.

The report, "Map the Meal Gap," shows that at least 41 million Americans, including 13 million children, are food- insecure, meaning they regularly lack access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

Nancy Conley, communications director for the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, says while the report lists several factors that can trigger food insecurity, it really boils down to one thing.

"The primary driver of hunger is poverty,” she states. “And if you look at poverty and hunger rates, they pretty well track. Until we can get our hands around poverty, hunger is just going to persist."

The report, produced by Feeding America, a national coalition of food banks, finds that more than 515,000 Arkansans struggle to find enough to eat.

Of that total, 165,000 are children, ranking the state third for childhood hunger.

The study, published for the eighth consecutive year, lists food insecurity rates by state, county and congressional district.

Conley says factors such as high poverty, unemployment and a lack of services mean food insecurity is highest in the state's rural counties.

"There are food deserts in many of our small rural areas that don't have access to grocery stores or farmers markets or food pantries,” she explains. “So, it becomes a downhill slide when all of these things conspire."

Conley says that while the report shows there is still a food insecurity crisis in Arkansas, the state has made some progress on the percentage of people affected.

"In 2015, it was 19.7, and now it's 17.2,” she points out. “We're seeing a decline, and even though that may not be statistically significant, you're talking about 20,000 more kids that are not food insecure."

Conley says the current debate in Congress over proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is alarming. She says about one in four Arkansans who are considered food-insecure already are not eligible for federal nutrition programs.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR