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Report: Childhood hunger is growing in Suburbs

Childhood hunger has changed. Hunger is no longer strictly an urban and rural phenomenon. It affects nearly every American community. This includes communities that might otherwise think child hunger is a problem that happens ‘somewhere else.’ Our perceptions have to change -- and with our perceptions, our policies.

Fair Share Education Fund released Childhood Hunger in America’s Suburbs: The Changing Geography of Poverty, a new report detailing the changing geography of childhood hunger at a time of growing suburban poverty. View the full report, here.

The report measured the number of students newly eligible for the National School Lunch Program – a leading indicator of poverty or food insecurity – between the years 2006-2007 and 2012-2013. It found that the 2008 Great Recession made the risk of childhood hunger significantly worse.

Of students newly eligible for the National School Lunch Program, 48 percent are from the suburbs, 25 percent are from the cities, 15 percent live in rural areas and 12 percent live in small- or mid-sized towns. Of public school students now eligible for free or reduced-price lunch nationwide, nearly one-third now live in the suburbs. Nearly 6.5 million children were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch in 2012-2013, more than the number of children from rural areas and small- and mid-sized towns combined.

“Even though food insecurity in the aggregate is still greater in the cities than in the suburbs, the number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch grew at a much faster rate in the suburbs than anywhere else,” said Gideon Weissman of the Frontier Group, who co-authored the report with Fair Share Education Fund's David Elliot. “The result is that the suburbs now look like the rest of America when it comes to issues such as hunger and poverty. Hunger and poverty in the suburbs is catching up to hunger and poverty in the cities, small- and mid-sized towns and rural areas.”