One in 4 Tarrant County children goes hungry because of a lack of access to adequate amounts of nutritious food, according to a report released Thursday.
Children go hungry at a higher rate than other age groups in Tarrant County, where 17 percent of all people are "food insecure," says Feeding America, the largest U.S. hunger relief agency.
Among children, the so-called food insecurity rate in Tarrant County is slightly higher than the national rate of 23 percent.
"This study confirms that in our service region, as in the rest of the nation, the rate of hunger among children is much greater than among the entire population in each county," said Bo Soderbergh, executive director of the Tarrant Area Food Bank.
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The report, Map the Meal Gap, was compiled by analyzing food price statistics collected by the U.S. Agriculture Department, the Census Bureau and other agencies, officials said. The report follows a March study that found that nearly half of food-insecure people in Tarrant County earn too much to qualify for food stamps.
The report concluded that 121,890 children are food-insecure in Tarrant County. In the 13-county area served by the Tarrant Area Food Bank, child food insecurity rates ranged from 22 percent in Denton County to 30 percent in Bosque County.
Andrea Helms, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant Area Food Bank, said officials believe that children's food insecurity rate in Tarrant County was closer to 1 in 5 before the recession.
This summer, the food bank helped 2,500 low-income children through its SummerPacks for Kids program, giving them healthful meals to take home on weekends, she said. That's up slightly from about 2,300 children helped in 2010, the program's first year.
Childhood hunger can have lasting affects, Helms said.
"Study after study has shown that without proper nutrition, children do not develop as well intellectually, emotionally and physically," she said. "They don't do as well in the classroom."
Statewide, the child food insecurity rate was 28 percent, or 1.9 million children, the report found. The highest child food insecurity rates found nationally were in Zavala and Starr counties, where rates were 50 percent. Both counties are in South Texas near the Mexico border.
Alex Branch, 817-390-7689