Report finds that nearly 1 million Missourians have faced food insecurity
April 27th, 2016
By Molly Peterson
COLUMBIA, Mo. – The 2016 Missouri Hunger Atlas, issued by the University of Missouri’s Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security, reports nearly 1 million Missourians faced food insecurity or the worry about not having enough food. This means nearly one in six individuals lacked adequate access to food, with the most vulnerable populations including children and the elderly.
“Missouri households are the hungriest they have been in decades,” said Sandy Rikoon, director of the MU Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security and co-author of the Hunger Atlas. “The increase in the percentage of Missouri citizens who reveal anxiety about not having enough food at some point during the year and those who experience skipped meals and involuntary diet reductions is concerning, and among the highest increases nationwide.”
Rikoon and his team, including doctoral students Darren Chapman, Annie Cafer, and Kathlee Freeman compiled the Atlas, which charts food insecurity and hunger on a county-by-county basis. Persistent-poverty areas in southern Missouri continue to have the highest levels of food insecurity; however, areas in northern Missouri are experiencing increasing levels of poor rural and elderly populations that are in need of food.
“One in five children in Missouri lives in food insecure households,” Chapman said. “We know that these kids are much more likely to face health issues, miss school and have difficulty concentrating when they are in class.”
“Food insecurity increases among the elderly are especially worrisome,” Cafer said. “The elderly are much less likely to accept or participate in government or community-based aid, increasing the likelihood of food insecurity.”
“Although the news from Missouri is not good, the Atlas shows that the counties with high food insecurity are doing a good job participating in available public programs. It demonstrates that many counties are making effective use of resources to mitigate hunger,” Freeman said.
Rikoon suggests that in order to end food insecurity systemic change is necessary, including higher wages and government transfer payments such as Social Security or housing assistance. At the local level, food pantries and food banks provide important short-term relief each month to more than 260,000 Missourians. Participation in all available public programs is essential, but as pressures on governmental programs increase, more responsibility is shifting to communities and counties to meet local needs, Rikoon said.
The 2016 Missouri Hunger Atlas is a public service of the University of Missouri and used by many individuals and private and public agencies around the state. This is the fourth Atlas published by the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security since 2008. The 2016 Hunger Atlas is available online at: http://foodsecurity.missouri.edu/projects/missouri-hunger-atlas/.
Editor’s note: For additional information on this story, please visit “Looking for the Face of Hunger”