Child hunger is high in Louisiana, New Orleans area, studies show
Published: Saturday, August 27, 2011, 9:00 AM
Compared with most parts of the country, a higher proportion of families in Louisiana, as well as in the New Orleans area, don’t get sufficient amounts of food, according to two new studies on child hunger.
The findings were released this month by the Food Research and Action Center, a national anti-hunger group that focuses specifically on child hunger, and Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, whose members include local food distributors such as Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana.
Each survey used different terms to define households that skip meals or ran out of groceries. But regardless of the measure, the results were high for families living in metropolitan New Orleans and Louisiana.
The Food Research survey found that the New Orleans area ranked eighth-highest among U. S. cities and Louisiana ranked seventh among states for households with children who suffered from “food hardship.”
The survey tallies rates of food hardships by counting families who responded “yes” to a Gallup poll that asked, “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”
Among cities, the Winston-Salem, N.C., area ranked the highest, with 34.8 percent of families with children answering yes, compared with 30.4 in the New Orleans area.
Among states, Mississippi ranked highest, with 32.5 percent of households with children responding yes. In Louisiana, 29 percent of households with children struggled with food hardship. Overall, 21 states and the District of Columbia reported more than 25 percent of households with food hardship.
The survey also broke down data by U.S. Congressional Districts. Louisiana’s 2nd District, represented by Rep, Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, ranked eighth, with 38.4 percent of families with children saying that they couldn’t afford enough food.
Feeding America’s data, outlined in its “Map the Meal Gap” study, show that, in Louisiana, nearly one in five children — 18 percent — is “food insecure,” meaning that their families worried that food would run out, bought food that didn’t last or skimped on meals. Basically, households that are food insecure experience the kind of food shortages that lead to hunger, which now, by federal definition, is no longer just a growling stomach but “discomfort, illness, weakness or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation.”
The food-insecurity rate for Louisiana’s population as a whole was a bit lower, 14.6 percent, or 644,540 people. The highest rates in the state were in East Carroll, Morehouse, Concordia, Tensas and West Carroll parishes, where rates were well over 20 percent of the total population.
The food-insecurity rate for Orleans Parish as a whole was 19.1 percent. Rates in other parishes were 15.5 percent in St. John the Baptist, 13.1 in St. Charles, 12.1 in Jefferson, 11.9 in St. Charles, 11.3 in Plaquemines and 9.4 in St. Tammany.
The Feeding America study estimated that, at $2.47 a meal, it would take an additional $266 million to adequately meet all of Louisiana’s food needs.
Katy Reckdahl can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3396.
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