Created: 04/29/2014 8:40 AM
By: Elizabeth Reed, KOB.com
For the second year in a row, New Mexico ranks No. 1 in childhood hunger.
According to the latest Map the Meal Gap report released by Feeding America, the hunger rate for children in New Mexico is 29.2 percent, which means one in three children 18 and younger is growing up hungry.
The national average is 18.6 percent.
"This should be a wakeup call for everyone in our state. Until we make sure that our children aren't going to school hungry, we won't be able to solve any of the other problems we have," said Melody Wattenbarger, president and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank. "If you look at indicators like our children's abysmal test scores, health, graduation rates and future wages, childhood hunger underpins them all. Agencies like ours can't address this issue alone. It's a statewide problem. It needs a statewide response."
Luna County has the largest childhood hunger problem with nearly 40 percent of children considered hungry. Taos County follows at 32.6 percent, Cibola County at 32.4 percent, Guadalupe County at 32.4 percent and McKinley County at 32.2 percent.
In response to the growing issue, Roadrunner Food Bank plans to launch the Childhood Hunger Initiative, which will reach into 16 counties.
"The best way to feed a hungry child is to feed the entire family. We're going to focus our expansion on reaching children and their families at schools, but our efforts alone will not reach all of the children who are going to bed hungry every night. We hope people will step forward and help us make this a success," Wattenbarger said.