The annual Map the Meal Gap study released this week by Feeding America ranks New Mexico as the most food insecure state among children in the United States – and Luna County as the most food insecure county in the state.
Food insecurity refers to the USDA’s measure of lack of access to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
The 2013 study, which uses 2011 data, shows Luna County’s hunger insecurity for the overall population at 25.4%. Among children, the hunger rate rises to 43.2%.
The New Mexico county with the next-highest hunger rate among children is Guadalupe at 36.8%. And the county with the next-highest overall hunger rate is McKinley, at 21.2%.
Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico Communications Officer Sonya Warwick said those statistics mean roughly 6,400 people in Luna County are food insecure or hungry. And worse, she said, is that nearly half the children in the county – 2,900 – do not have access to enough nutritious food.
Warwick said the families of 92% of those 2,900 children qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, which they estimate provides food for just over two weeks every month.
She said the Roadrunner Food Bank fills the gaps by supplying food for distribution through Helping Hand in Deming, the Andrew Sanchez Youth Center in Columbus, and mobile food pantry sites throughout the county.
The annual Map the Meal Gap study did reveal some good news: the rate of hunger in Luna County is down slightly from last year, when the overall hunger rate was 27% and the rate among children was 46.3%.
Warwick said the number of families qualifying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program support was up from last year as well.