Published: 1:58 pm, Sun. May. 7th, 2017Updated: 1:56 pm
Map the Meal Gap revealed New Mexico ranks among the worst for hunger. For a second year, New Mexico ranked No. 2 for childhood hunger in a tie with Arkansas at 25 percent, or one in four children at-risk for hunger. Among the overall population, the state ranked No. 7 among all states for hunger, tied with Ohio. The report shows 16 percent of the population in New Mexico, or one in six, is at-risk for hunger.
Map the Meal Gap confirms hunger exists in every county in Roadrunner Food Bank’s service area. Overall hunger rates range from a low of 8.4 percent in Guadalupe County to 27.2 percent in McKinley County. Nationwide, the average for hunger across all counties is 14 percent.
In New Mexico, children at risk for hunger are much worse off compared to the overall population and experience much higher rates of hunger. Rates in the state range from a low of 18.7 percent of children at risk for hunger in Eddy County to a high of 34.8 percent in McKinley County.
The study also finds people currently facing hunger are likely falling further behind. Food costs and other daily expenses are increasing, and wages have not kept pace. High rates of unemployment and under-employment also force many into food lines as they continue to struggle to earn enough to meet their needs. In New Mexico, food-insecure individuals now face, on average, a food budget shortfall of $16.50 per person each week, up from $16.14 last year. For a family of four, this represents an additional $66 a week or $264 a month.
“It’s difficult to impress upon people how prevalent hunger is in our state. New Mexico is not seeing economic recovery like other states,” said Melody Wattenbarger, president and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank. “Many of the counties we provide food to are located in rural communities with higher rates of hunger. These counties and our partners in those counties heavily rely on the food we bring them to feed children, seniors and families experiencing hunger.”
Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico distributed 32.5 million pounds of food last year through a statewide hunger-relief network made up of hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and regional food banks. It also provided food through specialized hunger initiatives, which take place in schools, senior centers, low-income senior housing sites, and “pop-up” mobile distributions.
In Eddy County, Roadrunner supplied 929,102 pounds of food to hunger-relief partners last year. The Food Bank partners who distributed the most pounds in the county include:
• Calvary Assembly of God’s Mobile Food Pantry in Carlsbad at 306,314 pounds
• Southeast New Mexico Community Action Corporation in Artesia at 204,897 pounds
• Agape’s Mobile Food Pantry at 117,473 pounds
The Food Bank also provided 300,418 pounds within the county at other sites in the county.