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New Mexico again leads nation in child hunger

Dead last and ranked 50th.

According to the just-released Map the Meal Gap 2019 report from Feeding America, 24.1% of kids age 18 and younger in New Mexico – that’s one of every four children – are at risk of childhood hunger and food insecurity.

The 2018 Map the Meal Gap also had New Mexico as dead last, and the 2017 report had the state ranked 49th.

This year’s 49th place holder is Arkansas with 23.6% of at-risk food insecure kids, then Louisiana at 23% and Mississippi at 22.9%.

In contrast, the states with the fewest percentage of kids who are at risk of food insecurity are North Dakota, ranked first with 9.8% of kids, followed by Massachusetts at 11.7%, New Hampshire with 12.3% and Minnesota with 12.6%.

The Map the Meal Gap also showed that 324,000 people of all ages in the state, or 15.8% of the entire population, are at risk of hunger.

The worst five counties in New Mexico with the highest percentage of child hunger, according to the report are: McKinley, with 33.5%; Luna, 33.4%; Cibola and Catron, each with 30.4%; and Sierra, 27.8%.

Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, coordinating a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. Together they provide meals to more than 46 million people each year. Roadrunner Food Bank is part of the Feeding America network.

Roadrunner Food Bank spokeswoman, Sonya Warwick, said food insecurity is generally understood as the inability of individuals or families to know where a portion of their food will come from at any given time.

“In some instances, that food insecurity results from adults in a family having unreliable seasonal jobs, or hourly workers suddenly finding that their hours were reduced, people who are unemployed or underemployed, those facing homelessness, domestic violence or health issues,” Warwick said.

Many people fall into the gray area, “where they’re still very poor, but make just over what might qualify them for federal food assistance programs, and that’s when Road Runner and statewide affiliated food partners can step in to help them,” Warwick said.

Of course the biggest factor in a state’s child hunger and food insecurity is the number of children who live in poverty. New Mexico is near the top of this list also.

Sharon Kayne, spokeswoman for New Mexico Voices for Children, said 27% of kids in our state live in poverty, ranking us 49th on this list, tied with Mississippi, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Only Louisiana fares worse, ranked in 50th place with 28% of kids living in poverty.

Data for the Map the Meal Gap report came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and food price data and analysis provided by Nielsen.

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