The US Department of Agriculture says Missouri has the second highest percentage in the nation of households without enough food to eat. USDA’s Household Food Security in the United States report finds that almost 8% of Missourians fall into the “very low food supply” category, which ranks only behind Arkansas. Missouri has an overall food insecurity rate of nearly 17%, which is tied for seventh highest in the nation.
Feeding Missouri state director Scott Baker said Missouri has had similar rankings before in the USDA’s annual report on hunger. He says hunger will continue to be prevalent in Missouri until its existence is recognized and deliberate, coordinated steps are taken to address it.
“Many people just cannot understand that hunger is real in Missouri. Going hungry is not something you are going to talk about with your neighbors. It’s something that you are going to hide. It’s not something you are going to be bragging about,” said Baker. “We really think the first step in solving hunger is just the acknowledgement that it exists. It exists in every county in the state of Missouri. There are a lot of misconceptions about what hunger looks like and where it might be.”
Baker says there’s as much of a hunger problem in rural Missouri as there is in urban communities.
He says food banks in Missouri continue to be stretched in their response to the hunger problem. According to the most recent “Hunger in America” report for Missouri, nearly 60% of partner food programs in the state reported an increase in the volume of clients being served. Last year, Missouri’s food banks distributed over 122 million pounds of food to a network of nearly 1,500 pantries, shelters, and kitchens.