Missouri looking to strengthen food insecurity programs

The following information is a press release from the Empower Missouri nonprofit:

report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) reveals that while Missouri has made some progress on reducing food insecurity, the state level is still higher than the national average. The report documents that the 2018 food insecurity rate in the U.S. was 11.7 percent as compared to 12.0 percent in Missouri. This means that one in eight of our Missouri neighbors had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all of the members of their household due to a lack of resources.

“There is evidence that federal nutrition assistance programs and local charitable responses are working;  food insecurity dropped slightly in Missouri during the past year, from 12.8 to 12 percent,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director of Empower Missouri, a statewide organization that convenes an advocacy network to pursue adequate nutrition for all Missouri households. “It is important that we strengthen these programs, rather than follow the reckless course being proposed by the Trump Administration.”

In 2018, Congress chose to pass a bipartisan five-year Farm Bill to keep the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition programs strong. All eight Congressional members and both senators from Missouri voted in favor of the bill. Despite this clear message of support for our nation’s response to hunger, the Trump Administration has made multiple attempts, with rules and proposed rules, to adopt policies that Congress rejected during the Farm Bill debate. The proposals are designed to keep members of immigrant families (including citizen children), working families with low wages, seniors, and people with disabilities from accessing SNAP benefits. Empower Missouri is currently collecting signatures on a letter that will be sent in as an official response of opposition to the latest USDA proposed rule, which would remove SNAP eligibility from over three million people in the United States.

The ERS report shows that the nation’s most vulnerable populations – families with children, African Americans, Hispanics, and those living in rural areas – continue to disproportionately struggle to put food on the table. While the report did not offer Missouri specific data on these categories, reports from the Missouri Department of Social Services show that one in six rural Missourians and one in eight urban Missourians access benefits from SNAP. 

“Because we are concerned about the ways that hunger harms health, the ability to learn, and productivity, we are making food security the highlighted issue at our annual conference in Columbia,” said Oxford. Ellen Teller, Director of Government Affairs for the Food Research and Advocacy Center in Washington, DC, will be the keynote speaker for Building Blocks for Missouri’s Success. The one-day conference convenes at Hickman High School at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 9, 2019. Proposals for workshops are currently being solicited, and online registration will open on September 23

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