Last year, nearly one in five Americans said that they couldn’t afford enough food, according to a new report. About a quarter of residents in parts of Southern California said the same.
During the 12 months of 2011, 18.6% of families across the country said that at times there wasn't enough money to buy food, according to the Food Research and Action Center. That's up from 18% in 2010 and the highest annual rate in the four years that the organization has put out its annual food hardship report.
Though the economy seems to be on the mend, with the unemployment rate falling and consumer confidence on the upswing, many Americans are still in dire straits. The ranks of the jobless or under-employed are still stuffed, median weekly earnings are down and food prices are inflated. Recent surges in gas prices haven't helped.
Among all the states, the situation was worst in Mississippi, where nearly a quarter of survey respondents said they'd had difficulty paying for enough food. But even in the state in the best shape, North Dakota, one in 10 households reported the same. California was ranked 20th, with 19.3% of people reporting food hardship.
In 96 of the largest 100 metropolitan areas included in the report, one in eight households struggled to afford food, the center said. Three of the top five were in California. Bakersfield led the list with more than a quarter of families struck by food hardship, followed by Fresno with 24.3% and the Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario region with 23.7%.
Los Angeles was 30th among metro areas, with 19.5% of households straining to feed themselves, the report said.
The report was unveiled this week as hundreds of experts and advocates met in Washington for the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference. Data used in the report from nearly 353,000 households came in part from Gallup's Healthways Well Being Index.