CHICAGO, IL – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA) reported this week that almost one in four children living in the United States are food insecure.   According to the 2009 report on Household Food Insecurity in the United States, there is a striking disparity in the prevalence of food insecurity among Hispanic children.  More than two million Hispanic households with children were food insecure at least some time during the year, an increase of 37 percent over 2007, compared with non-Hispanic whites’ households with children.  The study also revealed that 177,000 non-white Hispanic households with children – an almost 50 percent increase over 2007 — experienced very low food security, meaning that the food intake of one or more of the household children was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money. This marks the largest increase in food insecurity rates among non-white Hispanic households with children since the USDA has been collecting data. Very low food insecurity for non-Hispanic whites rose 35 percent during the same period.

“Importantly, these numbers reflect the state of the nation one year ago, in 2008.  Since then, the economy has significantly weakened, and there are likely many more children of varying ethnicity struggling with hunger than this report states,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization.   “It is an outrage that one in four children in this nation lives on the brink of hunger and doesn’t have access to adequate amounts of nutritious food.”

The new data reinforces recent findings from a research study conducted by Feeding America reflecting a dramatic increase in requests for emergency food assistance from food banks across the country.  Conducted in September, the Feeding America study shows that more than half of its network food banks reported seeing more children as clients.

“This study reinforces the fact that there are likely millions of Hispanic families in need of food assistance who are not turning to our system for help.  We believe this is due to a lack of awareness of emergency feeding programs and perhaps the stigma associated with asking for help,” said Escarra.  “We will continue to reach out to Hispanic communities to ensure families in need know they can turn to us in times of crisis.

“Feeding America’s 200 food banks continue to work on the front lines feeding more than 25 million people each year, through our country’s food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency feeding centers – more than 63,000 agencies in total,” continued Escarra.  “These establishments, many of which are grass root and faith based centers operated solely by volunteers, serve as an oasis for the more than 4 million people who seek relief weekly to help feed themselves and their families.  Emergency food assistance is a critical link in the nation’s response chain to help people through times of crisis.”

Escarra observes, “Our network food banks are calling us every day, telling us that demand for emergency food is higher than it has ever been in our history.  Feeding America will continue to work closely with our partners at USDA to ensure that the public and charitable sectors are keeping pace – as best we can – with the dramatically increasing needs for food assistance.”

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