New Mexico: A Silver Lining
If you're looking for a silver lining for New Mexico, the latest data showed the percentage of hungry children in New Mexico had declined to 25% in 2015 from 27.2% in 2014. In terms of percentages, however, New Mexico remained at near the top in the rate of child hunger, tied for second with Arkansas at 25%. Only Mississippi had a higher rate of child hunger at 26.3%. Regardless of what improvements occurred between 2014 and 2015, the reality is that one in four children in New Mexico live in food-insecure households.
Some Important Points in the Report
- Percentages Tell Only a Part of the Story: As helpful as food-insecurity rates are when measuring the prevalence of need, the absolute number of individuals in need is just as important. In fact, populous counties with low rates of food insecurity are home to some of the largest numbers of food- insecure people. For example, Los Angeles County, California has a relatively low rate of food insecurity of 12%, but is home to an estimated 1.2 million food- insecure individuals, including more than 480,000 food-insecure children.
- Lower Numbers, Greater Need: Although the total number of people living in food- insecure households has decreased, individual need among people who are food insecure has increased. Despite the economic recovery and reductions in unemployment and poverty, millions of people still struggle to get by because of persistent economic challenges, such as underemployment and stagnant wages. In addition, rising costs for essentials, especially rent and housing expenses, continue to put real cost pressure on low-income families, many of whom already report having to make regular spending tradeoffs to help ensure they have sufficient food
- The Importance of Federal Programs: While charitable assistance plays a critical role in helping families meet their food needs, federal nutrition programs are the first line of defense against hunger. WIC supports pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women and their infants and children up to age 5. In federal fiscal year 2016, more than 7 million women, infants and children participated in WIC (USDA, FNS, 2017). The NSLP, SBP and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provide meals to low-income children in school and during school breaks. Over 100,000 schools operate NSLP and during federal fiscal year 2016, 22 million children received free or reduced-price lunch through NSLP (USDA FNS, 2017). SNAP provides electronic benefit cards to households to purchase groceries, and although it is not limited to children, 44% of all SNAP participants in federal fiscal year 2015 were children (approximately 20 million children) (Gray et al., 2016).