About 17 percent (3.5 million) of American children under the age 5 are at risk of going hungry, according to a report released Thursday by the nonprofit, anti-hunger group Feeding America.
The group's analysis of 2005-2007 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Agriculture Department revealed that in 11 states, more than 20 percent of children under age 5 may go hungry, the Associated Press reported.
Louisiana had the highest rate (just under 25 percent), followed by North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho and Arkansas.
Young children who go hungry can suffer lasting physical and behavioral problems, as well as poorer development and academic achievement, the AP reported.
Agriculture Department data shows that, before the current economic crisis, 11 percent of U.S. households lacked enough food for an active, healthy life.