FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Prior to the pandemic, one in five Arkansas children were living in poverty.

According to the most recent Annie E. Casey Foundation report, Arkansas is showing some improvement in the area of economic wellbeing, ranking 34th in the nation.

While the 2019 study showed overall improvement from previous years, one area in particular is causing concern.

“The really concerning thing there is that our child poverty rate really didn’t budge at all,” said Bruno Showers, Senior Policy Analyst for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. ‘We were ranked 46th last year and we were ranked 46th this year. A lot of that increase in our ranking is driven by one indicator in particular, which is the share of kids living in households that are housing burdens, spending more than 30% on housing.”

Showers said this number tends to be even worse for minorities.

“The overall childhood poverty rate here is 22%,” Showers said. “That’s as high as 39% for black children and 27% for Hispanic or Latino children.”

Showers said there is major concern for what is ahead because this report was done before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tracy Engel from River Valley Food Banks said she has seen an increased need for food support in families.

“In 2019 when the flood the big hundred year flood came, we went from 7 million pounds a year to almost 12 million pounds a year,” Engel said. “But in 2020 with the pandemic, we did over 22 million pounds a year.”

To see the full report and statistics on Arkansas education, health and community and family context, click here.