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L.A. County tops list of counties with children at risk of hunger

June 14, 2013|By Gale Holland
  • Volunteers Manny Huerta, left, and Cesar Montoya, work in the food pantry at the Lutheran Social Services Community Care Center in Van Nuys.
Volunteers Manny Huerta, left, and Cesar Montoya, work in the food pantry… (Katie Falkenberg / For The…)

More children are at risk of going hungry in Los Angeles County than in any other county in the nation, according to a report released this week.

Using 2011 survey and statistical data from the U.S. Census and U.S. Department of Agriculture,  Feeding America, a national network of food banks, found that 650,000 children in Los Angeles County are  "food insecure."

The finding does not necessarily mean the children here are chronically  hungry.

Beginning in 2006, the agriculture department dropped the term "hunger" and started using "food insecurity," a more complicated concept that considers access to safe and nutritional meals as well as to food in general.

Children deemed food insecure may live with parents or guardians who can't afford balanced meals, or who skip dinner so the kids can eat. The families may eat well for a while, then resort to less-nutritious cheap food at the end of the month while waiting for a check to come in.

"Even if kids are not missing meals, they're aware maybe mommy isn't eating that day," said Amy Satoh, research manager for Feeding America. "Anytime a household has food insecurity it has really negative impacts for the whole family."

Los Angeles County has the highest number of children in jeopardy of going hungry because of its large population, nearly 10 million. The highest rate of food-insecure children is in Zavala County, Texas, where 83% of youths are in some jeopardy.

New Mexico is the nation's most food-insecure state for children. California ranked 12th, behind Arizona, Nevada and Texas, the report said.

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Twitter:@geholland

gale.holland@latimes.com

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