Kids head off to school with empty bellies, knowing that their federally-subsidied school lunch might be the only meal they get all day.

Parents skip meals to ensure that their kids have enough to eat.

Families that go to bed hungry, already worried about whether or not they will have anything to eat the next day.

If this sounds tragic to you, I assure you - it is.  And if it sounds rare, I assure you - it is not.

According to a new report released by Feeding America - a hunger-relief charity, hunger is a 'silent crisis' in America, affecting more families than most of us realize.

The report, based on 2012 federal survey data from 44,000 households, found that 49 million Americans are 'food insecure,' meaning that they may not always know where their next meal is coming from.  These folks sometimes eat less, go hungry or eat less nutritious meals because they can not afford another option.  Almost a third of Americans facing food insecurity are children.

The report, entitled 'Map the Meal Gap,' found that in 324 counties across the U.S., one in five people are food insecure. Most of these were in the South.  The report also showed that many of the people scrambling to put food on the table lived in areas where food costs are on the rise.  Twenty-three counties with high rates of people at risk of hunger also had high food costs. In those counties, the average meal costs $3 or more, higher than the national average of $2.74.

All of this has been compounded by the recent move in Congress to cut food stamp benefits.   In November, Congress slashed benefits to 47 million people, reducing an average family of four's monthly allotment by $36.  That is sure to add up to even more hungry Americans over the next few months.  And most of them will be children.

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