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Still more suffering for those who are the weakest.

According to a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture, some 691,000 children went hungry in America sometime in 2007, even before this year’s sharp economic downtown.

The department’s annual report on food security showed that during 2007 the number of children who suffered a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat was more than double the 430,000 in 2006 and the largest figure since 716,000 in 1998.

Overall, the 36.2 million adults and children who struggled with hunger during the year was up slightly from 35.5 million in 2006. That was 12.2 percent of Americans who didn’t have the money or assistance to get enough food to maintain active, healthy lives.

Almost a third of those, 11.9 million adults and children, went hungry at some point. That figure has grown by more than 40 percent since 2000. The government says these people suffered a substantial disruption in their food supply at some point and classifies them as having “very low food security.” Until the government rewrote its definitions two years ago, this group was described as having “food insecurity with hunger.”

The findings should increase pressure to meet President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to expand food aid and end childhood hunger by 2015, said James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group.

Among other findings:

_The families with the highest rates of food insecurity were headed by single mothers (30.2 percent), black households (22.2 percent), Hispanic households (20.1 percent), and households with incomes below the official poverty line (37.7 percent).

_States with families reporting the highest prevalence of food insecurity during 2005-2007 were Mississippi (17.4 percent), New Mexico (15 percent), Texas (14.8 percent) and Arkansas (14.4 percent).

_The highest growth in food insecurity over the last 9 years came in Alaska and Iowa, both of which saw a 3.7 percent increase in families who struggled to eat adequately or had substantial food disruptions.

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Educators know that students who are hungry have a difficult time studying and learning.  Schools may have to pick up the slack when parents are unable to feed themselves and their children.

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