'Food Hardship' an Issue in 21 States, Report Says

POVERTY: A report by the Food Research and Action Center found that at least one in five Americans in 21 states struggled to feed their families in 2010. Mississippi was the state where people were most likely to say that there were times when they did not have enough money to buy food, the report said, followed by Alabama , Kentucky and South Carolina . Of the top 14 states reporting the most serious hunger problems, 13 were in the Southeast and Southwest, the report says.

PRIVATE BENEFACTORS: A plan to get private investors to fund social service programs is drawing bipartisan support in Minnesota . The proposal would start an investment pool of up to $20 million using state bonds sold to the participants. The money would go to programs that could demonstrate a healthy return on investment, such as job training that put the unemployed back to work and boosted the taxes they paid, The Associated Press reported

MENTAL HEALTH: States cut more than $1.8 billion from mental health programs between fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2011, says a report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Kentucky chopped the most in percentage terms, reducing 47.5 percent of its total general fund mental health budget, and California cut the most in dollar terms, $587.4 million. The report includes state-by-state lists of budget reductions ; changes in the number of people served in state hospitals ; and projected declines in federal Medicaid funds . "On any given day, half the people with serious mental illness in this country receive no treatment," Michael Fitzpatrick, executive director of the alliance, told USA Today .

WELFARE: Welfare recipients in Washington State would no longer be able to tap their benefits at bars, tattoo parlors, adult entertainment venues and other such establishments under a bill making its way through the Legislature, says The Columbian (Vancouver). The measure would require that an array of adult-oriented businesses prevent their ATM and point-of-sale machines from accepting state-issued electronic benefit cards. The anti-fraud effort stems in part from a report last fall on the " Reset Washington" website , published by state Senate Republicans, that EBT cards were used to get cash in casinos and even to pay dealers for drugs on the street. 
ABORTION:   Texas is poised to join Alabama , Louisiana and Mississippi and require a sonogram for women seeking an abortion. An intraparty feud over differing versions of the legislation in Texas may delay its trip to the governor's desk, The Houston Chronicle reports , but ultimate passage is expected. Oklahoma has a similar law but it is being litigated, according to a state-by-state briefing by the Guttmacher Institute on sonogram laws.  

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