20% of area kids at risk of hunger, food bank says

8/26/2011 8:51:05 AM

VERONA — Roughly one in five children in the southern Shenandoah Valley is at risk of hunger, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank said Thursday.

The food bank said a nationwide study by Feeding America, a nonprofit hunger relief agency, estimates that about 5,700 children in Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro are at risk.

The area is doing better than the rest of the country, though. Nationwide, roughly one in four children is "food insecure," Feeding America said.

Food insecurity means a person may not be able to fully meet basic needs at all times.

The Feeding America study estimated 3,240 children in Augusta County, or 20.7 percent, are food insecure.

In Staunton, the figure was 970, or 21.4 percent.

In Waynesboro, Feeding America estimated the number at 1,480 or 28.4 percent.

"More than 3,200 children in Augusta County are at risk of hunger. Imagine, 3,200 children," said Larry Zippin, chief executive officer of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

"The number of food insecure children in the cities of Staunton, Waynesboro and the surrounding localities is alarming as well. These are children we know and see every day. They are our neighbors, even your child's best friend."

Feeding America calculates the number of children at risk of missing their basic needs by plugging county-specific data on median income, unemployment and poverty rates into a formula.

The food bank, meanwhile, said it experienced a 17 percent increase in participation in all of its after-school feeding programs in the Valley between the 2010 and 2011 school years.

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