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Report: Hunger On the Rise in MO

PHOTO: More empty plates? The number of Missouri households struggling to put adequate food on the table continues to rise at one of the fastest rates in the nation, according to the USDA's annual food=insecurity survey. Photo credit: ladyheart/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: More empty plates? The number of Missouri households struggling to put adequate food on the table continues to rise at one of the fastest rates in the nation, according to the USDA's annual food=insecurity survey. Photo credit: ladyheart/morguefile.com.
September 5, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - There's a hunger crisis in Missouri and it's only getting worse, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The study found that the state is losing ground despite efforts to help families put food on the table.

When it comes to feeding its most vulnerable residents, said Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, the state is moving in the wrong direction.

"Missouri has the second-highest growth in food insecurity in the country," she said, "tied with Tennessee for second place."

According to the data, one in six Missouri households struggled with hunger last year, making the state one of eight in the nation where the rate of food insecurity is significantly higher than the national average of roughly 14 percent.

Mott Oxford said she feels the trend highlights the need to strengthen the food safety net, including increasing federal food assistance benefits and expanding child nutrition programs.

"Like school breakfasts and lunches, summer feeding programs, food stamps," she said. "Those programs provide over $20 worth of aid to struggling families for every dollar that we're raising privately with charity."

Among the nearly 17-percent of Missouri households the survey found to be faced with hunger, more than half were identified as having "very low food security." The term means they have budget issues severe enough to skip meals, both for adults and kids, on a more frequent basis.

The report is online at ers.usda.gov.

Mona Shand/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - MO