New Study: Food hardship afflicts more than one in four NM households with children

By Matthew Reichbach

Nearly thirty percent of New Mexico households with children said there was a time over the last year where they could not afford food according to a report (pdf) by the Food Research and Action Center, or FRAC.

The study found that the 28.3 percent of households with children in New Mexico experienced food hardship. This ranked 12th out of 50 states and Washington D.C. from 2009-2010.

The food hardship rate was 28.2 percent for household with children in the Albuquerque Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Both numbers far outstripped the amount of households without children who said at some point from between 2009 and 2010 that they could not afford to feed their households.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty used the report as a reason to criticize the New Mexico Human Services Department for cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty wrote in a statement:

[The Human Services Department] has made a series of cuts to programs for low-income children and their families. HSD said the cuts were necessary because it did not have enough money. However, HSD recently admitted to the Legislative Finance Committee that it did not spend $10 million in funds it had available to pay for these programs in FY2011. Usually children participating in the TANF program receive $100 in August for school clothing. This year, when families are struggling more than ever to make ends meet, they are receiving half that amount. Over 30,000 children will be affected by the cut despite the fact that HSD has the $1.5 million needed to provide this help.

“The new data reaffirm what we’re seeing in our communities – that far too many people continue to struggle with hunger in these challenging economic times,” said Patricia Anders, a staff attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “It demonstrates, as if any further evidence were needed, that this is not the time to make our safety net weaker.”

In May, New Mexico was one of four states and the District of Columbia that cut TANF funds according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

At the time, the CBPP said, “New Mexico cut TANF benefits by 15 percent effective January 1, 2011, reducing benefits for a family of three by $67 a month, from $447 to $380.”

“The food hardship rate in New Mexico for households with children is far too high, demonstrating a significant need for increasing family access to federal food assistance services,” said Meghann Dallin, manager of the New Mexico No Kid Hungry Campaign, a project of the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger, in a statement released today.

Washington D.C. had the highest rate of food hardship among households with children at 37.4 percent. North Dakota had the lowest percentage of food hardship among households with children at 15.3 percent.

New Mexico’s rate is not atypical among states in the region. Arizona came in at 29 percent, Texas at 27.9 percent, Oklahoma at 27.6 percent, Colorado at 23.4 percent and Utah at 23 percent.

Breaking down the food hardship numbers for households with children by congressional district shows the 1st CD scored the worst with 27.2 percent, followed by the 2nd CD at 25.5 percent. The 3rd Congressional District has the lowest rate at 24.6 percent. None rank among the top 100 in the national, though all are in the top half.

The report found that six of the 45 congressional districts with the worst rates were in Texas, two in Arizona and one in Okahoma.