Key Facts about Hunger in Texas

Childhood Food InsecurityScreenshot 2016-07-29 10.29.02

  • Texas had the 8th highest rate of childhood food insecurity in 2014, with 1,821,820 children (25.6%) living in food insecure households.
  • The counties with highest number of food insecure children were: Harris (#3 nationally, 24.9%), Dallas (#6 nationally, 26%), Tarrant (#11 nationally, 24.8%), and Bexar (#14 nationally, 23.4%).
  • Read more about Texas’s hunger profile here.

Effects and Costs

Children living in food insecure households:


  • Have lower math scores;
  • Are more likely to repeat a grade,
    • Grade retention costs $3.5 billion annually;
  • Have higher rates of absenteeism;
  • Are more likely to receive special education services,
    • Special education services in public primary and secondary schools in 2014 cost $5.91 billion;
  • Have lower energy and memory problems;
  • Have lower rates of high school graduation,
    • Throughout a working career, a high school dropout will earn $500,000 less than a high school graduate, and $2 million less than a college graduate.

Health/Mental Health:

  • Have higher rates of anxiety and depression;
  • Have higher rates of birth defects including low birth weight, cleft palate, spina bifida, and artery transposition,
    • “Hospitalization for birth defects cost the US over $2.6 billion annually;”
  • Are more aggressive and destructive;
  • Have inadequate calcium, potassium, phosphorous, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, C, D, and E uptake,
    • These deficiencies can lead to impaired vision, rickets, fatigue, heart palpitations, and anemia;
  • Are more likely to be obese,
    • Medical costs for childhood obesity in the US are over $127 million annually;
  • Have higher rates of hospitalization and chronic health problems,
    • The average pediatric hospitalization costs about $12,000.



  • Texas missed out on more federal funding than any other state in 2015.
    • Just to feed 40 out of every 100 eligible children during the summer, Texas could have received an additional $56.3 million and fed 713,710 children.
  • The US spent $167.5 billion in 2010 on food insecurity: $130.5 billion were spent treating hunger related illnesses, $17.8 billion were spent on hunger-related charity work, and $19.2 billion were spent due to a lack of education and productivity due to poor nutrition.
    • Food insecurity cost Texas $44.2 billion in expenditures, $21.3 billion in gross product, and 239,500 jobs in 2014.

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  • In 2015, Texas was ranked #39 for Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) participation compared to NSLP participation. Only approximately 13% of eligible children participate in summer meal programs, with 280,000 children participating in summer nutrition programs but 3.2 million participating in the National School Lunch Program.
  • Average daily participation in SFSP in July decreased by 20.3% between 2014 and 2015.
  • There were 6.4% fewer SFSP sponsors in 2015 than in 2014.
  • In 2014, approximately 51,000 meals were served to children in afterschool programs daily. Over 880,000 children participated in afterschool programs, however, and 935,000 children were alone and unsupervised after school.
  • Overall in Texas, 21 school districts and 3 cities sponsored afterschool meal sites.



  • Almost 1/3 of sponsors felt that their advertising methods were ineffective, and low participation was among the largest perceived barriers for program efforts.
  • Most prevalent advertising methods for sponsors were newspapers and neighborhood flyers.
  • Phone recruitment of parents, television, and door hangers were rated most effective forms of advertising.
  • Only one after school meal program is listed on 211 Texas’s website.
  • There were 33,580 calls to United Way about food security in Texas.



  • A lack of transportation is the largest perceived barrier to participation in meal programs according to sponsors.
  • Texas summer mandate requires school districts where over 50% of students are eligible for free or reduced price meals to serve summer meals for at least 30 days, however many school districts opt-out of this requirement because of participation or funding restrictions.