"But in one significant way, they differ from non-immigrants most cannot turn to the U.S. government's food safety net the food stamp program."
In Forsyth, 15.8 percent of those surveyed reported children had had to go all day without food in the past year and 21.8 percent reported that children were hungry because they couldn't afford more food. And yet the researchers also found that only 12.9 percent of those in Forsyth reported receiving food from a food pantry compared to 25 percent of those in eastern North Carolina.
The immigrants in the mountain counties are better off because of the year-round nature of the Christmas tree industry, but specific data on participation in food programs wasn't collected.
There is some other help available. About 60 percent of those in eastern North Carolina participated in the WIC (Women, Infant, and Children) program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, compared to 40 percent in Forsyth County. More than 60 percent of survey participants both in eastern North Carolina and Forsyth participated in the school lunch program.
Quandt said the data showed the rates of hunger and food insecurity were considerably above nationally collected statistics among the general population, among Hispanics alone, and other low-income populations.
"Compared with the rest of the world, the United States enjoys relative freedom from food insecurity and hunger," Quandt said. "National data showed that 82.4 percent of U.S. households with children were food secure, 13.3 percent were food insecure without hunger and 4.3 percent reported hunger."
She added, "Policy makers need to reconsider access to food programs in the light of the levels of food insecurity and hunger and its short- and long-term consequences."