Skip to content

Food insecurity a problem for many

Food is a basic necessity which most Americans, most Missourians, and many people in the Parkland take for granted.

And yet, Missourians to End Poverty’s 2018 Missouri Poverty Report says there are 345,912 Missouri households which were food insecure in 2016. Food insecurity is defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable nutritious food.

The non-profit organization Feeding America is a nationwide network of food banks. According to its website, the network feeds more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies.

According to Feeding America, the national food insecurity rate is 13 percent. Missouri’s food insecurity rate is 14.2 percent. In St. Francois, Iron, Washington, and Madison Counties, the food insecurity rate is 20-24 percent. It is 15-19 percent in Ste. Genevieve County.

Feeding America reports, “The cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease begins when an individual or family can not afford enough nutritious food. The combination of stress and poor nutrition can make disease management even more challenging. Further, the time and money needed to respond to these worsening health crises drains the household budget, leaving little money for essential nutrition and medical care. This causes the cycle to continue. Many families experiencing food insecurity often have several, if not all, compounding factors which makes maintaining good health extremely difficult.”

The poverty report says, the lack of nutritious food causes an increase in the risk of disease and other health issues, and a decrease in mental focus for adults at work and children at school.

Feeding America says the average meal in Missouri costs $2.73. The organization’s Hunger in America Study identified compromises and coping strategies used by food insecure Americans. Sixty-nine percent had to choose between food and utilities. Sixty-seven percent had to choose between food and transportation. Sixty-six percent had to choose between food and medical care. Fifty-seven percent had to choose between food and housing, and 31 percent had to choose between food and education.

Seventy-nine percent of food insecure people purchase inexpensive and unhealthy food. Fifty-three percent receive help from friends or family. Forty percent water down food or drinks, 35 percent sell or pawn personal property, and 23 percent grow food in a garden.

The United States Department of Agriculture calls the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) the cornerstone of the nation’s nutrition assistance safety net. Benefits are available to most people who meet the financial and non-financial requirements, and the program serves a broad spectrum of low-income people. In Fiscal Year 2015, SNAP provided about $1.26 billion dollars in food benefits to a monthly average of 844,597 people in Missouri.

According to the University of Missouri’s 2016 Missouri Hunger Atlas there are 12,326 monthly SNAP participants in St. Francois County. This represents 18.8 percent of the population of the county. In Washington County, there are 6,387 SNAP recipients or 25.4 percent of the population of the county. In Iron County 2,280 people (21.7 percent of the total population of the county) participate in SNAP. In Madison County the percentage is 19.5, as there are 2,408 SNAP participants. By contrast. There are 1,740 SNAP participants in Ste. Genevieve County, representing just 9.7 percent of the county’s population.

The Hunger Atlas shows St. Francois County is also high in the percentage of students eligible for the national school lunch program, at 59.6 percent. Madison County is at 64.9 percent, Iron County is at 64.6 percent, Washington is at 74.8 percent and Ste. Genevieve is at 42.6 percent.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a special supplemental nutrition program which provides services to pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children up to their 5th birthday based on nutritional risk and income eligibility. The primary services provided are health screening, risk assessment, nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding promotion and referrals to health care. Supplemental food is provided at no cost to participants.

The Hunger Atlas reports 59.7 of Missouri children under the age of 5 and eligible participate in WIC. In St. Francois County it’s 63.1 percent. Madison County has 68 percent, Ste. Genevieve County has 75.9 percent, Washington County has 87 percent, and Iron County has 100.3 percent.

“As the number of families seeking food assistance in (St. Francois) county rises, so does the strain on local pantries,” Rob Baker, community services coordinator for EMAA said.

In 2016, the Hunger Atlas states food pantries distributed 116,851,067 pounds of food in Missouri. There were 974,792 Missourians below the poverty level in 2016. On average, the pantries distributed 120 pounds per person (below the poverty level). St. Francois County food pantries distributed 60 pounds per person below the poverty level in the same year. Ste. Genevieve County distributed 53 pounds per person, Washington County distributed 73 pounds per person, Iron County distributed 98 pounds per person, and Madison County distributed 105 pounds per person.

In 2018, volunteers serve a weekly free meal at MUM's Cafe at Memorial United Methodist Church in Farmington.

In 2018, volunteers serve a weekly free meal at MUM’s Cafe at Memorial United Methodist Church in Farmington.

Judy and Bill Brooks fill up a box at the Farmington Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry.

Judy and Bill Brooks fill up a box at the Farmington Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry.

MUM’s Café at Memorial United Methodist Church in Farmington serves a free meal 5-6 p.m. every Thursday. 

MUM’s Café at Memorial United Methodist Church in Farmington serves a free meal 5-6 p.m. every Thursday. 

Leave a Comment