Special Report

States Where the Most Kids Go Hungry

5. Nevada
> Child food-insecurity: 28.1% (tied-4th highest)
> Child poverty rate: 24.0% (17th highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 11.5% (the highest)
> Pct. with SNAP benefits: 12.6% (19th lowest)

Food-insecurity among children is often reflected by participation in various school lunch programs. At least half of Nevada children were eligible for reduced lunch programs, actually lower than the nation rate — 80% of American children are eligible nationally. However, Nevada’s state government has recognized that at least 20 rural schools did not know about these programs or were unable to participate due to lack of resources. Among the larger counties where data was available, Clark County, which includes the city of Las Vegas, was home to 124,600 children living in food-insecure households, among the highest figures for all U.S. counties. A poor job market may also have contributed to food-insecurity. The unemployment rate in Nevada was 11.5% in 2012, the worst rate in the country.

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4. Georgia
> Child food-insecurity: 28.1% (tied-4th highest)
> Child poverty rate: 27.2% (6th highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 9.0% (8th highest)
> Pct. with SNAP benefits: 16.5% (tied-9th highest)

Like many states where child food-insecurity was prevalent, Georgia struggles with high poverty rates. Nearly one in five individuals in the state lived below the poverty line in 2012, including 27% of children, both among the worst rates nationwide. Residents also relied more heavily on food stamps than in most other states, with 16.5% collecting SNAP benefits in 2012, compared with 13.6% nationwide. Health outcomes were also poor in the state, with diabetes and obesity rates both higher than the national rate. The unemployment rate was also quite high, at 9% in 2012, worse than all but a handful of states. Muscogee and Fulton counties had unemployment above 9% and food-insecurity rates of roughly 20%.

3. Arizona
> Child food-insecurity: 28.2%
> Child poverty rate: 27.0% (7th highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 8.3% (14th highest)
> Pct. with SNAP benefits: 14.5% (22nd highest)

Nearly 250,000 children lived in food-insecure households in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, more than in all but a few counties nationwide. The food-insecurity rate in the county was 24.6%, actually lower than the statewide rate, which was more than 28% in 2012. Like most states suffering from food-insecurity, Arizona struggles with high poverty rates and a relatively high unemployment rate. The child poverty rate was 27% that year, and 8.3% of the workforce was unemployed, both among the worst nationwide.

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2. Mississippi
> Child food-insecurity: 28.7%
> Child poverty rate: 34.7% (the highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 9.2% (tied-5th highest)
> Pct. with SNAP benefits: 19.4% (2nd highest)

Mississippi was home to the county with the highest food-insecurity rate in the nation, Humphreys County, where 33% of all residents were unable to reliably find three adequate meals a day. Mississippi continued to lead the nation with a poverty rate of more than 24.2% in 2012. The poverty rate for children was even higher, at 35% — the highest rate nationwide. Low incomes in the state help explain the high poverty rates. A typical Mississippi household made less than $37,095 in 2012, a lower median income than any other state. Mississippi had the highest obesity rate of any state in 2012, and residents were more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and have previously had a heart attack than the vast majority of Americans.

1. New Mexico
> Child food-insecurity: 29.2%
> Child poverty rate: 29.3% (2nd highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 7.1% (22nd lowest)
> Pct. with SNAP benefits: 16.5% (tied-9th highest)

Nearly 30% of children were living in food-insecure households in New Mexico, the highest rate in the country. While unemployment was actually lower than the national rate, at 7.1% in 2012, the state has struggled with a low median income and high poverty rates. More than 20% of all individuals, and nearly 30% of children, lived below the poverty line in 2012, both second-worst in the nation. New Mexico’s poverty problem is among the nation’s oldest and most severe. According to the USDA, the state is designated as an area of “persistent poverty” with the problem extending back to at least the 1970 Census.