Anywhere from 40 to 64 percent of families in San Juan struggle to put food on the table, a lawmaker with Puerto Rico's governing PPD says.

Legislator Manuel Natal Albelo cited that estimate on Thursday as he introduced a bill that would require authorities in this U.S. commonwealth to begin measuring the level of food insecurity.

The figures come from a study carried out by professors and students at the University of Puerto Rico's Graduate School of Public Health and the UPR law school's Pro Bono Health Justice Program.

With an economy mired in recession for more than seven years, unemployment of nearly 15 percent and massive public debt, Puerto Rico needs to "maximize the existing resources" and ensure that they are fairly distributed, Natal said.

Food insecurity is defined as a situation where families reduce portions and go entire days without eating because they fear running out of food before the next paycheck.

"To reduce and prevent food insecurity is a social and humanitarian responsibility," UPR professors Winna Rivera and Nylca Muñoz Sosa said in a statement announcing Natal's bill.

"The first step toward addressing the problem of food insecurity is knowing the magnitude of its prevalence in our country," they said. 

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