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Report: Child Hunger Impacts All U.S. Counties

A new report shows that many Americans who frequently don't know how they'll pay for their next meal earn too much to qualify for federal food assistance. (Pixabay)
A new report shows that many Americans who frequently don't know how they'll pay for their next meal earn too much to qualify for federal food assistance. (Pixabay)
May 3, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. – A new Feeding America report shows in every county and Congressional district in the U.S., a subset of the population can't afford to buy food on a consistent basis.

Adam Dewey, the group's research director, says in some states, one in four children is at risk of missing a meal, and eight of the top ten states with the highest percentage of child food insecurity are in the South.

Things are better in the Cornhusker State, where Dewey says just under 12% of kids are at risk of hunger.

"Despite the fact that Nebraska has on average or slightly below average rates of overall and child food insecurity, nearly a quarter million individuals in Nebraska are estimated to reside in food-insecure households," says Dewey.

The range varies across the state, from just over 5% food insecurity in Colfax County to nearly 19% in Thurston County.

Dewey says many households have to choose between paying for child care or medical bills, and buying enough food for all family members to live active, healthy lives. He adds a significant number of people facing hunger earn too much to qualify for federal food assistance, and rely on food pantries to get by.

The report also estimates the current food-budget shortfall – the amount of money people need to buy food but don't have – is over $20 billion annually. Dewey says data collected from some three thousand counties and congressional districts suggest that some regions are at greater risk than others.

"And what we find is that three out of four of those counties that rank in top 10% across the entire country are considered rural," says Dewey. “So, those communities that have the highest rates of food insecurity are disproportionately rural."

Dewey says when kids don't have consistent access to food, studies show they're more likely to be admitted to the hospital, and to develop asthma, anemia, hypertension, and other health problems.

The report's recommendations include calling for Congress to reauthorize child nutrition programs later this year, and strengthen the SNAP or food-stamp program. Dewey also encourages people to donate food and time at their local food bank.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE