Jose Franco has done his best to stretch his $25,000 salary to support the eight people living in his New Mexico mobile home. But times have gotten so tough for the family that lives in the poorest state that Franco fears they may resort to eating their pets.

At 22.2 percent, New Mexico has the highest share of poor people of any state, a Census Bureau report released Wednesday revealed. The state’s median income dropped to $$44,270 in the most recent two-year period from $46,108 in 2009-2010, and advocates say that intervening at the childhood level is the only way to break the poverty cycle.

"We know what will work, we know what public policies work, we know that early childhood will work," Christine Hollis, director of the New Mexico Kids Count program, told the New Mexican. "We just need the political will to do it and move it forward."

Thirty percent of children in New Mexico, the second highest in the United States, live in poverty, according to Kids Count, an organization that tracks poverty levels, and minority children are particularly at risk.

To breathe hope into the state’s impoverished communities, some nonprofits and political leaders are focusing on empowering, educating and supporting the youngest residents of the state.

Last month, Governor Susana Martinez formed a new task force to aggressively tackle the issue of childhood hunger by pairing together public and nonprofit initiatives, krqe.com reports.

Cuidando Los Ninos, an organization that works to end childhood homelessness, is doing its part by providing meals to young people in need.

”Food is not high on the priority and of course there's no money…so when the children come to us they get a healthy breakfast lunch and snack everyday,” Cuidando Los Ninos’s Maria Gundy told the news outlet.

A key factor to the rise in poverty was the loss of 3,900 jobs in the public sector over the year, according to New Mexico Voices for Children, a network of multi-issue child advocacy organizations.

“We had a recession that was, at first, largely driven by the loss of construction industry employment. It’s just very hard to pull out of,” Gerry Bradley, the nonprofit’s research director, told the Albuquerque Journal.

Experts say that improving education opportunities for the young is key to raising a generation that won’t have to struggle with poverty.

Kids Count, which is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is experimenting with this potential solution by investing in programs that embolden poor children. The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative aims to help young people who have gone through the juvenile justice system to develop into healthy, productive adults. The Center for Family Economic Success works to help families find jobs and grow their finances to build a better life for their children.

Considering that the proposal to put more money into early education never made it out of the 2012 legislative session, according to Public News Service and one-fifth of the state is without health insurance, these advocates have a long road ahead. But they are at least confident that New Mexico has hit rock bottom and can only improve from here.

“Things will probably not get much worse,” Bradley told the Albuquerque Journal.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the median income in New Mexico. It also stated that the state has the highest "number" of poor people. New Mexico has the highest "share" of poor people in the U.S. The errors have been fixed.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Workers are not reaping the gains of their extra productivity.

    Worker productivity grew 11 times more quickly than worker pay between 1979 and 2011: While <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/fact-sheets/key-findings/" target="_blank">worker productivity rose 69 percent</a>, median hourly compensation rose just 6.5 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute. [Chart credit: <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/chart/swa-wages-figure-4u-change-total-economy/" target="_hplink">Economic Policy Institute</a>]

  • CEO pay has skyrocketed.

    Maybe it's time to consider your CEO's massive pay package as a cut out of your own paycheck. <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/wages/" target="_hplink">CEO pay is more than 200 times</a> that of a typical worker, up from 30 times that of a typical worker in the late 1970s, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

  • There aren't enough jobs.

    At its current rate of job creation, the U.S. will not return to its pre-recession unemployment rate of around 5 percent before 2020, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

  • Job growth was slow even before the recession.

    From the Economic Policy Institute: "The business cycle from 2000-2007 is the weakest full business cycle on record for job creation, due to the fact that demand was insufficient to drive overall GDP gains that were robust enough to generate strong job growth." It appears that the middle class squeeze has hurt job creation and economic growth.

  • We are poorer than we could be.

    Households in the middle fifth of income distribution would have been making $18,897 more per year as of 2007 if their incomes had grown as quickly as overall average incomes between 1979 and 2007, according to the Economic Policy Institute. (The sizable income growth for top earners since 1979 skewed the overall average.)

  • The rich have captured most income growth.

    The top one percent captured 60 percent of total income growth between 1979 and 2007, while the bottom 90 percent was left with just 9 percent of the total, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Moreover, the top one percent's incomes rose 241 percent, in contrast to 11 percent growth for the bottom fifth and 19 percent growth for the middle fifth. [Chart credit: <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/chart/swa-income-figure-2a-real-median-family/" target="_hplink">Economic Policy Institute</a>]

  • Wages have grown more quickly for the rich.

    Wages for the top one percent spiked 131 percent between 1979 and 2010, while wages for the bottom 90 percent of workers rose just 15 percent over that same period, according to the Economic Policy Institute. [Chart credit: <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/chart/swa-wages-figure-4h-change-real-annual-wages/" target="_hplink">Economic Policy Institute</a>]

  • The poorest Americans are earning less than in 1979.

    Americans in the bottom tenth of the wage distribution earned less last year than the lowest earners did in 1979, accounting for inflation, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Meanwhile, the real wages of the median worker rose only 6 percent between 1979 and 2011.

  • The American Dream is eroding.

    "Families headed by early baby boomers (born between 1945-1954) are the last generation (on average) to achieve higher living standards than the one that preceded them," the Economic Policy Institute says. Among families with incomes below $28,000 in 1994, less than 1 percent made it to the top fifth of incomes 10 years later, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

  • This has been a lost decade.

    On average, hourly pay has not grown at all since 2002 for workers with a college degree or with only a high school degree, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Wages have not grown for college graduates in nearly every occupation, and college graduates in the 70th income percentile or lower have had stagnant or falling wages since 2000. [Chart credit: <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/chart/swa-wages-figure-4a-change-total-economy/" target="_hplink">Economic Policy Institute</a>]