/ Modified apr 22, 2014 3:58 p.m.

Report: AZ Worse Than Natl Average for 'Food Insecurity'

A new study by the nonprofit Feeding America says 1 in 5 Arizonans are affected by hunger; more alarming 1 in 4 children are struggling to eat.

Story by Riis Valcho

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A new report says that 1 in 5 Arizonans struggle to provide for a basic life necessity: eating.

The nonprofit group Feeding America said Arizona is worse than the national average for what the report calls "food insecurity."

Map the Meal Gap is a study that measures the number of people affected by hunger in each state and county in the U.S.

More alarming is that 1 in 4 children in Arizona are struggling to eat. That is more than 450,000 kids around the state. Nearly 58,000 of them live in Pima County.

Ken Patterson, division manager at Phoenix Union High School District, is in charge of food services for the district. He said it's difficult to make sure students are eating once they leave school for the day.

"I think a lot is being left on the (shoulders) of the children. In many cases the children are fending for themselves," he said. "They don’t know where the food backs are. They don’t want to go alone. So, they’re looking at whatever is closest to them."

The report said 27 percent of households in Arizona make too much money to qualify for nutrition assistance, but aren't making enough to provide daily meals.

Apache, Navajo and Yuma counties have the highest overall rate of food insecurity in the state. Pinal County has the lowest.

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