Healthcare Economy

States Where the Most People Go Hungry

5. North Carolina
> Low food security homes: 17.0%
> Very low food security homes: 5.5% (24th highest)
> Median household income: $43,916 (12th lowest)
> Pct. obesity: 28.9% (12th highest)

While there are some prosperous regions of the state, North Carolina still has a substantial poverty problem. In 2011, 17.9% of residents were living below the poverty line, the 13th highest rate in the country. More than one in five people surveyed in 2012 by Gallup-Healthways said they had not had enough money to buy food their family needed in the past 12 months. North Carolina’s food security problems have worsened during the recession. In 2009, 14.8% of families had low or very low food security. In 2012, it was 17% of families.

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4. Alabama
> Low food security homes: 17.9%
> Very low food security homes: 6.8% (7th highest)
> Median household income: $41,415 (5th lowest)
> Pct. obesity: 30.4% (5th highest)

Alabama residents practiced less healthy behavior than most Americans as of 2012. Residents were among the most likely to smoke and the least likely to exercise and eat healthy all day. The lack of healthy eating habits may have been driven by low food security, which results in households reducing “the quality, variety, and desirability of their diets,” according to the USDA. The combination of unhealthy behaviors and limited food access likely has led to Alabama residents being among the most overweight and unfit in the country. According to Gallup, just four states had higher obesity rates than Alabama in 2012.

3. Texas
> Low food security homes: 18.4%
> Very low food security homes: 6.2% (13th highest)
> Median household income: $49,392 (25th highest)
> Pct. obesity: 28.9% (12th highest)

In 2002, close to 15% of Texas households faced low food security each year. By 2012, 18.4% of Texas households experienced low food security. For many residents, low incomes likely prevent access to healthy food. As of 2011, Texas had a poverty rate of 18.5%, among the higher rates in the nation. Additionally, many residents in Texas lack the skills to work a high-paying job. Nearly 19% of the state’s population over age 25 had less than a high school diploma, tying Texas with Mississippi for the highest percentage of any state.

2. Arkansas
> Low food security homes: 19.7%
> Very low food security homes: 8.1% (the highest)
> Median household income: $38,758 (3rd lowest)
> Pct. obesity: 31.4% (3rd highest)

Last year, Arkansas had proportionally more households with very low food security than any other state in the nation, averaging 8.1% of all households. Making it difficult for many residents to afford proper food, Arkansas was one of the nation’s poorest states as of 2011. That year, the median household income was less than $39,000 and one of the lowest in the country. Meanwhile, nearly 20% of the state’s residents lived below the poverty line. With limited, irregular access to nutritious and balanced food, residents were among the most likely to be overweight, based on the results of a 2012 Gallup survey.

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1. Mississippi
> Low food security homes: 20.9%
> Very low food security homes: 6.9% (5th highest)
> Median household income: $36,919 (the lowest)
> Pct. obesity: 32.2% (2nd highest)

One in every five households experienced food insecurity in Mississippi. Residents of the state were among the poorest in the nation in recent years by numerous measures. In 2011, Mississippi had the lowest median household income in the nation, at $36,919, as well as its highest poverty rate, at 22.6% of all residents. Last year, one in four respondents to a Gallup survey stated they had, at some point, lacked the money necessary to feed their family. Even when residents could ensure they did not have to cut back on their meals because of low food security, many likely often had to eat nutritionally poor food. Mississippi residents had among the highest obesity rates in the country.

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