Nearly one third of Latino children in the United States live in families that have difficulty feeding them, according to a report released Wednesday by the Bread for the World Institute.

"Nearly one in five children in the United States lives in a family that struggles to put food on the table," according to the report, which is based on data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Agriculture.

"Latino children of immigrants are even more likely to be at risk of hunger," the Institute said.

In 2009, amid one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression, 30 percent of Latino families resorted to Feeding America, the largest network of food banks in the United States, the study said.

According to the 2010 Census, Latino children number 16 million and make up 22 percent of the U.S. population under 18. While 92 percent of these children were born in this country, 58 percent have at least one immigrant parent.

The figures presented by the Bread for the World Institute serve as a call to action to protect the country's most vulnerable groups, experts said.

The study says that, in the world's richest nation, 17.4 million homes - including 26.9 percent of Latino households - faced "food insecurity" in 2009.

compared to 23.2 percent among children in general, according to the figures assembled by the Institute, a Christian movement focused on alleviating hunger worldwide.

In 2009, 14.3 percent of the population lived in poverty, but among Latinos the percentage was 25.3 percent.

The report says that 56 percent of immigrant children live in low-income families. In general, these children live in families with incomes 20 percent below the level of families with U.S.-born parents.

Although food aid exists for these families, particularly by means of food stamps, many immigrant homes do not participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, despite the fact that they meet the requirements to do so.

In 2011, just 44 percent of eligible Hispanic children received benefits under SNAP.

According to the Institute, immigrant households have an unfounded fear that asking for or receiving help through SNAP could affect their immigration status.

Likewise, U.S.-born children of undocumented parents have more difficulties getting access to nutrition programs because their parents do not ask for help out of fear of being arrested or deported, the analsyis added.

Currently, federal laws prohibit providing social aid to undocumented foreigners and legal residents who have been in the country for less than five years.