A new study shows 20% of children in western Iowa and eastern Nebraska are at-risk of going hungry.

Susan Ogborn, president and C.E.O. of the Omaha-based Food Bank for the Heartland, says the report contains alarming numbers, especially for those under 18.

“We have far more hungry children in particular than what we think is acceptable,” she says. The study, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011,” indicates the most vulnerable people in our region — children — are the ones who are in the toughest situation.

Ogborn says many children are facing hunger from the first day they’re brought into the world.

“One out of every two babies being born today is what we call WIC-eligible, that’s Women, Infant and Children, a feeding program for low-income women and their babies,” Ogborn says. “What it looks like is that our up-and-coming population is much hungrier and much poorer than our existing adult population and that’s concerning long-term.”

Ogborn says the report shows the food bank will have to work harder to make sure children in the region get the food they need.

“What we will do is try to double our efforts and reach out to areas where we haven’t had contacts yet, particularly in the more rural parts of the state,” she says.

The report shows the most at-risk children for hunger in western Iowa are in Woodbury County, with about 6,400, and Pottawattamie County with 4,400.

The Food Bank for the Heartland is the largest food bank in Nebraska and Iowa, encompassing 93 counties in the two-state region and distributing nine-million pounds of food a year.

The agency serves more than 300 food pantries, emergency shelters, after-school programs, senior housing sites and rehabilitation centers.