The state of Arkansas ranked first in low food security, according to an annual report released Wednesday by The Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The data was compiled from an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau as a supplement to the monthly Current Population Survey. 

The report revealed that more than 48.9 million Americans lived in households struggling against hunger in 2012. Arkansas ranked number one in the category "very low food security" at 8.1 percent.  

Households that fall into the "low food security" category had more severe problems, experiencing "deeper hunger and cutting back or skipping meals on a more frequent basis with both adults and children."

The state ranked second in the number of people facing food insecurity, and according to the report, 19.7 percent, or about one in five Arkansans, do not know where their next meal is coming from. 

The report was released one week after a study by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger ranked Arkansas the worst state for senior hunger.  

Their report revealed that 24.3 percent of individuals age 60 and older face the threat of hunger in Arkansas. 

"The numbers from these reports unfortunately validate what we are seeing out in the local communities," said Rhonda Sanders, CEO of the Arkansas Foodbank. "There are many more people who are hungry than we expect and who they are often surprises us. The Arkansas Foodbank remains committed to acquiring, storing and distributing food to local food pantries, food kitchens and shelters to feed those who are in need." 

In a statement Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the report underscores the importance of federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

"As the recovery continues and families turn to USDA nutrition programs for help to put good food on the table, this is not the time for cuts to the SNAP program that would disqualify millions of Americans and threaten a rise in food insecurity. For our part, USDA will continue to deliver a strong nutrition program with an error rate that is at a historic low," Vilsack said.

The Arkansas Foodbank is the largest food bank in the state, and is a member of Feeding America and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. Its warehouses in Little Rock, Warren and Caddo Valley serve approximately 300 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other agencies that provide aid directly to hungry Arkansans. 

In 2012, the Foodbank distributed more than 16 million pounds of food to agencies that help feed the hungry. For information on ways to fight hunger, visit the Foodbank website at

(Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 501-505-1277 or by email at To comment on this story and others, visit