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Food Bank Use on Rise in MO

PHOTO: More Missourians than ever are asking for help from the state's food banks, which distributed a record-breaking amount of food in 2013. Photo credit: MFBA
PHOTO: More Missourians than ever are asking for help from the state's food banks, which distributed a record-breaking amount of food in 2013. Photo credit: MFBA
March 17, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. - While unemployment rates are decreasing, the economic recovery still is not trickling down to the dinner table for too many hungry Missourians. Monica Palmer, communications manager, Missouri Food Bank Association, said 2013 was a record-breaking year, with more than 100 million pounds of food distributed across the state - an increase of 23 percent from 2012.

More Missouri families are finding they simply can't stretch their budgets any farther, Palmer said.

"Their income is not keeping up, because groceries are going up, child care is going up, everything is going up, but wages are not competing - they're actually going down," Palmer explained.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Missouri number two in the nation for "very low food security," which means many of the state's residents have a hard time consistently providing food for themselves and their families.

Palmer said not only are more people visiting the state's food banks for the first time, they are relying on them for longer periods of time. That has led to a shift in the food bank mission, she said.

"Historically, food banks are the organizations that help with emergency needs, but over the last several years we've seen food banks supplying more maintenance food," she explained, "because people aren't finding the jobs, they're not getting back on their feet quite as much."

Cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) last year equated to 3.5 million lost meals for Missouri families. While the recently-passed federal Farm Bill does allocate an additional $200 million to food banks nationwide, Palmer said it is too soon to know how much of an effect it will have.

More information on accessing or donating to local food banks is at www.FeedingMissouri.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO