Saturday, January 30, 2010

Food Hardship a Growing National Problem; New Mexico Near the Middle

New Mexicans have become used to ranking near the top of the list on many hunger and nutrition deficiency categories.  Therefore, it was a mild surprise not to find our state in the Top 10 in the new measure of Food Hardship created by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Food Hardship is defined simply as the lack of money to buy food that families need.  

The fact that we're not on the top of the list in this particular measure does not mean that hunger and poverty are not a problem in communities around our state.  Far from it. Recent USDA data showed that our state remained very food insecure.

In compiling the report about food hardship, FRAC analyzed survey data collected by the Gallup polling organization between January 2008 and December 2009. "The ability to provide such localized data and such up-to-date data comes from Gallup, interviewing 1,000 households per day almost every day since January 2, 2008 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project," said FRAC. 

The organization notes:
The data in this report show that food hardship is truly a national problem. It is a national problem in the sense that the rate for the nation is so high. And it is a national problem in the sense that rates are high in virtually every state, Metropolitan Statistical Area, and congressional district.
    New Mexico Data
    According to the FRAC report, New Mexico had food hardship of 19.2%, ranking 18th in the nation.  

    Three states in the South--Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama topped the list. 

    The least rate of food hardship was found in North Dakota, which was ranked 51st. (The table includes the District of Columbia).

    Among our neighboring states, Arizona ranked 22nd, Texas 14th, and Colorado 27.

    Here's what FRAC said about the states:
    In 20 states in 2009, more than one in five respondents answered the food hardship question in the affirmative; in 45 states, more than 15 percent answered the question “yes.” For households with children in the states, the situation is even worse. Rates for such households were higher in every state than for households
    An interesting trend was that New Mexico had a food hardship of 22.9% in households with children, compared with 18.1% in househoulds without children.

    FRAC says this follows a national trend:
    The food hardship rate is even worse for households with children. Respondents in such households reported food hardship at a rate 1.62 times that of other households - 24.1 percent versus 14.9 percent in 2009.
    Congressional Districts
    Of the 436 congressional districts (including the District of Columbia), only 23 had a food hardship rate below ten percent. 311 had a rate 15 percent or higher. In 139 food hardship was reported by one fifth or more of all respondent households.  

    New Mexico's First Congressional District (primarily Albuquerque) has a food hardship rate of 15.9%, ranking 282.

    New Mexico's Second Congressional District (Las Cruces, Roswell, Carlsbad, Silver City) has a food hardship rate of 18.4%, ranking 205.

    New Mexico's Third Congressional District (Santa Fe, Gallup, Las Vegas, Taos), has a food hardship of 18.5%, ranking 198. 

    By way of comparison, the highest food harship rate was found in the New York Congressional District #16 (the Bronx) at 36%.  The lowest was the California 14th district (Santa Clara, San Jose)) at 6.6%

    Metropolitan Statistical Areas
    Albuquerque was the only community in our state measured in the Metropolitan Stastical Areas (MSAs).  Our city ranked smack in the middle at number 50 among 100 MSAs surveyed.  The highest food hardship rate was in the Memphis area, while the lowest was in Honolulu.  Among comparably sized cities in our region, Tucson ranked 37, Austin-Round Rock 70 and Colorado Springs 81.

    Says FRAC:
    Of the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), 82 had 15 percent or more of respondents answering that they did not have enough money to buy needed food at times in the last 12 months.

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