N.D. Has Lowest Hunger Risk as 49 Million in U.S. Strain

North Dakota’s oil and gas production boom has boosted incomes and, according to a government report today, left the state with the lowest percentage of households struggling to afford food.

An estimated 8.7 percent of North Dakota households were at risk of hunger in 2013, compared with 14.3 percent of U.S. households, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in an annual report. Virginia was second lowest, at 9.5 percent, the USDA reported, and Arkansas was highest at 21.2 percent.

“The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably from state to state,” according to the report’s authors.

North Dakota, which has become the nation’s No. 2 oil producer after Texas as drillers use hydraulic fracturing to extract trapped oil and gas, had the nation’s lowest unemployment rate in July at 2.8 percent.

The state’s economic health index -- which measures indicators such as employment, income, tax revenue and home prices -- was up 2.7 percent in first quarter from the same period last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That put it among the top-performing states in the nation.

About 49.1 million Americans were “food insecure” at some point last year, up 0.2 percent from 2012, a gain in line with population growth, according to the USDA. U.S. residents facing hunger fell to 15.8 percent of the population last year from 15.9 percent.

Hunger Peak

The number of Americans at risk of hunger peaked at 50.2 million in 2009, as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression pushed unemployment to 10 percent in October. Participation in the federal food stamp program, the biggest U.S. government food-aid initiative, peaked at a record 47.8 million in June 2013. It was 46.2 million in May, the most recent month available.

At the state level, Mississippi was second highest, at 21.1 percent of households, the USDA said. State percentages were calculated over the past three years of data to provide more reliable estimates, the department said.

The percentage of households dropped 2.1 percent from 2011, which the department called statistically significant.

The 2013 U.S. food security survey sampled 42,147 households, asking one adult respondent in each household about their ability to afford balanced meals and frequency of cutting the size of meals because of lack of money, among other questions.

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