Kids From Immigrant Families See the Worst of Hunger in the U.S.

Undocumented families who can't access safety net programs often don't know where their next meal will come from.

By Shani O. Hilton Sep 12, 2011

The slightest signs of recovery: The United States Department of Agriculture’s latest food insecurity numbers — that is, the number of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from — aren’t getting worse. And the very hungriest, those with the lowest food security, are slightly declining in number.

Though the numbers went down by a couple of percentage points for all races, blacks and Latinos are still disproportionately suffering from hunger. While 11 percent of white households have some level of food insecurity, 25.1 percent of black families don’t know whether they’ll have enough food before the next paycheck comes in.

The numbers for Latino families is even more disturbing. Though 26.1 percent of Latinos are food insecure, a full 50 percent of children of immigrants don’t have adequate, nutritious food. And according to Bread for the World, a hunger advocacy organization, these children don’t have access to food stamp benefits or even free or reduced school lunch, because their undocumented parents fear being discovered.

"Some immigrant parents believe they will be deported to their countries, but that is not true," Ivone Guillen of Bread for the World said in a statement. "They can apply for government assistance because their kids are U.S. citizens."

While about 80 percent of U.S. households don’t worry about whether they can feed themselves, adults in about 10 percent of households go without so their children can eat, while in another 9 percent, both children and adults are food insecure. In one percent of homes, the USDA found "very low food security," which is measured by quality of meals, how often meals are skipped, and whether people lost weight because they couldn’t afford food.

The government began calling "hunger" "food security" in acknowledgment that lack of access to food for the vast majority of Americans is "recurrent but not chronic."