The study also breaks down child food insecurity rates by congressional district, which could send a powerful message to Washington. The proposed House budget for 2012 includes substantial cuts to food aid programs in the 2012 budget cycle. The cuts could affect up to 350,000 recipients of the WIC program alone. The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provides agricultural products to food banks to pass on to the poor, is also facing a proposed $50 million cut, representing one fifth of the budget for this program.
For many who are struggling to make ends meet, the food banks may be the only place to turn. According to the Feeding America study, of the 17 million children living in food-insecure households nationwide, almost 4 million live in households earning more than the official poverty limit and are therefore not eligible for federal food aid programs.
The proposed cuts, if passed, would be disastrous for many families, experts say.
"As we deal with all the financial issues facing our nation, we can't balance our budget on the backs of poor and hungry children," said Escarra.
Other findings from Feeding America's study:
_In 314 counties around the country, one third of the children in the county are living in food-insecure households.
_Nineteen counties are home to more than 100,000 children living in food-insecure households. And three of those counties have more than 300,000 food-insecure children.
_Steele County, N.D., has the lowest number of children at risk of hunger, at 7 percent.
_Starr and Zavala counties in Texas, near the border with Mexico, have the highest rates, with over 50 percent of the children in those counties living in food-insecure households.
For Katherine Foronda, who spent many of her days in high school subsisting on crackers, it was a drop-out prevention program with a food aid component that helped her put hunger behind her.
Early on in high school, with her hunger distracting her from her studies, she failed an English class. Rather than repeating the class, she was given the option of taking an afterschool life skills course, which offered meals to attendees each day and sent them home with food supplies each weekend.
She also gained new insight into the possibilities for her own future, learning from a mentor that college was within her reach, despite her family's economic circumstances.
With food to eat and not just a little bit of hope, she started performing better in classes, and founded a program that offered food support to the student body in her high school. She won a scholarship to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she is now a sophomore.
The program she started at her high school will enter its third year when school begins later this month. Click here for full coverage of Hunger at Home: Crisis in America