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AZ Among Worst States for Family Food Hardship

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011   

PHOENIX - Arizona is among the lowest-ranking states in the nation when it comes to families' ability to put food on the table. According to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center, Arizona tied with Louisiana for seventh-worst in this regard, with 29 percent of families with children saying they ran out of money to buy food at least once in the past year.

Katie Kahle, program manager for food and nutrition programs for the Arizona Community Action Association, says some states are seeing economic recovery and job growth, but not Arizona.

"In most parts of the state, housing values are going down. We're seeing higher unemployment numbers. In some of our outlying parts of the state, the rural areas like in Yuma County, they're facing 25 percent unemployment or above."

Kahle says the number of Arizonans receiving SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, is still rising, topping 1.1 million for the first time last month. She says the community can help by donating to, or volunteering at, one of the state's food banks.

Kahle says the report shows the food hardship problem isn't confined to Arizona's rural areas.

"Tucson actually came out as the nation's 15th-worst city, with 28.7 percent of households with children not having enough money to buy food, and the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metro area came out at 20th."

Food and nutrition programs for children are part of the current budget-cutting debate in Congress. In Kahle's view, this would be a bad time to further weaken federal and state safety-net programs for low-income families who have nowhere else to turn.

"It's important that we have a balanced budget. It's important that we make sure that we're being sound with our money choices, as a country and as a state. But it's also, some would argue, more important that we make sure that children are fed, and are safe, and are healthy."

She says a lack of nutritious food can also hurt a child's behavior and performance in school and even impede normal childhood development.

The report is at http://frac.org/pdf/aug2011_food_hardship_report_children.pdf




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