The Missouri Food Bank says one in four children in the state are struggling with hunger. The Missouri Food Bank Association says every corner of the state’s children — about 25 percent of them — are food insecure. However, association president Scott Baker says that number jumps to nearly 40 percent in rural Shannon, Wright and Washington counties.

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He believes the problem is that there is a lack of awareness in those areas. Whereas metro areas have more outlets for help, such as food pantries and soup kitchens, he says simply getting nutritous food to rural areas can be more of a challenge. And he says often, officials in rural areas do not know or do not believe there is a problem.

Baker says Missouri is near the top of the list in the U.S. for food insecurity. One reason is that the food gap occurs in families that — by all definitions — are not poor but make slightly above the poverty line and therefore cannot qualify for government subsidies such as food stamps.

The study shows nearly a million Missourians are food insecure. More than 350,000 of them are above the poverty line.

Baker says when people think of hunger, they often think of poor countries half a world away when in fact, it’s happening right in our back yard. And he says this study uses numbers from 2009, and so as unemployment and natural disasters continue to impact families in the state, the problem is likely to get much worse, not better.

Last year, Missouri’s food banks distributed over 88 million pounds of food to hungry Missourians through a network of over 1,000 food pantries, shelters, and kitchens.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports [Mp3, 1:25 min.]