Special Report

States Where the Most Kids Go Hungry

10. North Carolina
> Child food-insecurity: 26.7%
> Child poverty rate: 26.0% (10th highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 9.2% (tied-5th highest)
> Pct. with SNAP benefits: 15.3% (17th highest)

Like many of the states with high food-insecurity among children, smaller, rural communities were more likely to struggle to limited access to food. More than 20% of individuals living in Hyde County, for example, had uncertain or inadequate access to food in 2012, among the highest rates of any county in the U.S. Poor food-security also placed people at a greater risk of negative health outcomes. In a recent Gallup poll, more than 13.2% of North Carolina residents reported that they had been diagnosed with diabetes, among the nation’s highest rates. North Carolina had among the worst poverty rates in 2012, with 18% of residents living below the poverty level, compared to 15.9% nationwide. The unemployment rate was also particularly bad, at 9.2% in 2012, worse than all but a handful of states.

9. Oregon
> Child food-insecurity: 27.3%
> Child poverty rate: 23.0% (20th highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 8.8% (tied-11th highest)
> Pct. with SNAP benefits: 20.1% (the highest)

More than one in five Oregon residents relied on food stamps in 2012, the highest rate in the nation. Given the importance of government assistance for families in the state, the high rate of child food-insecurity, 27.3%, may not be surprising. Some have argued that historically high housing costs — Oregon’s median home price was $223,900 in 2012, compared with just $171,900 nationwide — have driven up the homeless rate in the state. According to Children First for Oregon, a non-profit, nearly 4% of Oregon public school students were homeless in recent years, nearly the highest rate nationwide. Unlike many of the states with high food-insecurity, residents tended to be in good health. Obesity, diabetes and hypertension were all below the national rate.

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8. Texas
> Child food-insecurity: 27.4%
> Child poverty rate: 25.8% (11th highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 6.8% (16th lowest)
> Pct. with SNAP benefits: 14.3% (23rd highest)

There were nearly seven million children living in Texas in 2012, more than any state except California. Of that number, more than 27%, or 1.9 million, had difficulty finding adequate meals over the course of the year. The problem was even worse in some small rural communities. More than 40% of children living in Zavala County, were considered food-insecure — by far the worst rate nationwide. While smaller communities tend to be more vulnerable, residents of larger communities often struggled with food-security as well. Of 15 counties with at least 100,000 food-insecure children, four were in Texas. More than one fifth of the under-18 population struggled to find adequate meals in each of these four counties. Limited access to crucial needs was hardly limited to food in Texas. No state had a greater percentage of its residents living without health insurance — 22.5% in 2012.

7. Florida
> Child food-insecurity: 27.6%
> Child poverty rate: 25.4% (13th highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 8.8% (tied-11th highest)
> Pct. with SNAP benefits: 15.2% (18th highest)

Miami-Dade County was one of just 15 counties nationwide where more than 100,000 children suffered from food-insecurity. Florida had a relatively high unemployment rate in 2012 — 8.8%, compared with a 8.1% national rate in 2012. Household income, on the other hand, was just $45,040 in 2012, considerably lower than the national median of $51,371. Like Texas, Florida residents had among the lowest rates of health insurance — 20.1% of residents were uninsured in 2012. Low health insurance coverage only makes matters worse when limited access to food is already producing poor health outcomes. Floridians were more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes and to have previously suffered a heart attack than Americans in most other states.

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6. Arkansas
> Child food-insecurity: 27.7%
> Child poverty rate: 28.5% (3rd highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 7.5% (22nd lowest)
> Pct. with SNAP benefits: 15.5% (14th highest)

Like several states with poor food-security for children, Arkansas struggles with low median incomes and high poverty rates. A typical household in the state earned just over $40,000 in 2012. One in five state residents was living in poverty that year, higher than all but a handful of states. Poverty was even worse among children. Nearly 30% of residents under age 18 were living in poverty that year, third-highest nationally. Poor food-security can lead to poor health outcomes, such as obesity. More than 32% of Arkansas residents were obese last year, among the highest rates nationwide.