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Hunger Week, Summit address larger issues

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By Arin McKenna

The Los Alamos County Council joined the New Mexico legislature in declaring July 14−18 as Hunger Week.
Hunger Week — initiated to raise awareness about hunger throughout the state — coincided with the first End Hunger in New Mexico Summit, sponsored by the North Central New Mexico Economic Development District Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging and the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department. The summit took place July 17−18.
“When people think of individuals or families going hungry, they often think of people living in extreme poverty, living in some distant land,” said Tim Armer, Executive Director for the NCNMEDD.
“It might surprise them that there are many people experiencing hunger right here in New Mexico and most likely right in their own neighborhoods. People can have a house, a car and a job but still struggle with putting food on the table.”
Here are some statistics about hunger in New Mexico provided by summit organizers.
• New Mexico is one of the highest states facing food insecurity with at least 40,000 New Mexicans seeking food assistance each week, including many children or senior citizens. Currently New Mexico ranks No. 1 in the nation for childhood hunger and second for senior hunger.
• 40,000 New Mexicans seek food assistance each week.
• 40 percent of New Mexicans served food assistance are under 18, seven percent of those are under age 5.
• 13 percent of those needing food assistance are seniors citizens. New Mexico ranks second in the nation for senior hunger.
• New Mexico is one of the highest states with food insecurity at 21 percent.
• 31.7 percent of those under 18 are living in poverty.
• 32 percent of those seeking food assistance have at least one working adult in the household.
• 8 percent of those seeking food assistance are homeless.
• Thousands of New Mexicans receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), but those funds only provide 2.3 weeks of groceries.
• 54 percent of surveyed clients have to choose between paying for groceries or paying utilities bills or heating fuel.
• 38 percent have to choose between paying for food or rent or mortgage.
• 45 percent have to choose between paying for food or medicine or medicinal costs.
• 42 percent had to choose between paying for food or transportation.
Arin McKenna