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Poverty, hunger hitting Latinos

By Starla Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Oct 23, 2012 - 8:34:57 AM

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( - Latinos in the United States are more likely than any other group to battle poverty and hunger, but safety net programs are preventing the outlook from being much worse, said a recently released report.

More than one in four Latinos experience food insecurity, the highest rate of any other demographic in America, according to data released by Bread for the World, a nonprofit Christian-based advocacy group.

The poverty rate among Latinos decreased only slightly from 2010 to 2011 for families with children under 18, a mere 1.6 percent. However, the poverty rate remains high. “Latino families with children struggle even more to put food on the table, nearly one in three,” says the group’s fact sheet “Hunger & Poverty in the Hispanic Community,” released in September.

There are over 50 million Latinos living in the U.S, with 13.8 million or 28.3 percent struggling with food insecurity and over 25 percent living in poverty, continued the report.

“It is unacceptable that one in three Hispanic children is at risk of hunger in the world’s wealthiest nation. People must become aware of the pressing need to end hunger in this country, especially among Hispanics, who are now more than 16 percent of the population,” Ricardo Moreno, national associate for Latino relations for Bread for the World, said in a statement.

The economic downtown impacted the Latino community and widened the wealth gap with Whites. The median wealth of White households is 18 times more than Latino households. Between 2005 and 2009 inflation-adjusted median wealth fell by 66 percent for Latinos, according to the Pew Research Center. A major factor in the decrease was the bursting housing bubble. Nearly two-thirds of the net worth of Latino families was tied up in home equity. The median level of home equity for Latinos plummeted from $99,983 to $49,145.

In 2009 the average White household had $113,149 in wealth compared to $6,325 for Latinos. Thirty-one percent of Latino households had a zero or negative net worth the same year, up from 23 percent in 2005.

Unemployment has also been a contributing factor to tough economic times faced by the Latino community. Although the jobless rate dipped to below double digits to 9.9 percent in September, according to the latest unemployment figures, families are still enduring hardships, said Bread for the World.

“Thirty-five percent of Latinos earned less than $29,654 the federal income limit for household participation in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in 2011. Still only 21.4 percent of Latinos received SNAP benefits,” continued the report.

Continuation of safety-net programs is critical to lifting communities out of these conditions by lending a helping hand, said the group. The group called for protection of SNAP, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program or Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Child Tax Credit and other assistive programs.

“Congress has a responsibility to communities with the greatest need, and we are urging policy makers to create a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people,” added Mr. Moreno.