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Nearly 1.7 million Texas kids are at risk of going hungry

Volunteers Koung Jang and Dur Alhamami pack food into boxes for the Food for Kids program at North Texas Food Bank Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Plano.
Yfat Yossifor
Volunteers Koung Jang and Dur Alhamami pack food into boxes for the Food for Kids program at North Texas Food Bank Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Plano.

A new report from the nation’s food bank network found the share of Texans as risk of going hungry went up again. Families with young children and Black and Latino households face the greatest food insecurity. Only six states had higher rates of hunger risk than Texas, according to the latest Map the Meal Gap report from Feeding America.

Across Texas, 1 in 6 Texas households could not afford enough nutritious food in 2022, according the latest data that’s available, which amounts to nearly 5 million Texans. That food insecurity rate increased for a second year in a row, up from 1 in 7 the previous year.

Among households with children, hunger risk was even more severe: Close to 1 in 4 were food insecure, leaving almost 1.7 million children at risk of going without adequate nutrition, the report found.

“In the heart of North Texas, where the number of people facing hunger is greater than the populations of cities like Seattle or San Francisco, the statistic that strikes hardest is nearly 40% of those in need are children, and that is just unacceptable,” said Trisha Cunningham, president and CEO of the Plano-based North Texas Food Bank in a press release.

Compared to white households, Black households faced nearly three times the rate of hunger and Latino households saw more than double that of white households. About 10% of white households, 23% of Latino households and 28% of Black households were food insecure.

The food bank network’s data shows that Texas households, on average, needed an extra $21.36 per week to meet their nutrition needs. Statewide, that amounts to an estimated $3.1 billion in total additional spending power that food insecure families needed.

In North Texas, food insecurity was slightly lower than the state average, with about 1 in 7 households unable to pay for adequate nutrition in the 25 counties in and around Dallas-Fort Worth that are served by the Tarrant Area Food Bank and the North Texas Food Bank. Still, nearly 1.3 million North Texans were at risk of going hungry.

The data also indicates a challenge facing many Texas households that are food insecure: More than half earn too much money to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is often called food stamps. That means half of the state’s households that can’t afford to buy enough food to meet their basic needs also can’t enroll in the nation’s leading tool to prevent hunger and malnutrition.

Food banks have been struggling to keep up with surging need in the wake of the pandemic. Last month, the Tarrant Area Food Bank raised alarms that it could run short of food to meet the needs of households in its 13-county service region.

Copyright 2024 KERA

Christopher Connelly is a KERA reporter based in Fort Worth. Christopher joined KERA after a year and a half covering the Maryland legislature for WYPR, the NPR member station in Baltimore. Before that, he was a Joan B. Kroc Fellow at NPR – one of three post-graduates who spend a year working as a reporter, show producer and digital producer at network HQ in Washington, D.C.