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One in Four Missouri Families Worries about Food for their Children

MU researchers release 2010 Missouri Hunger Atlas; Food insecurity in Missouri has worsened

Aug. 16, 2010

Story Contact(s):
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— As the recession continues, economic casualties continue to mount. Daily, the media report that banks continue to foreclose on home loans and people are still losing their jobs. Missing from the headlines, however, is the growing number of people that are having more difficulty feeding themselves and their children. According to the 2010 Missouri Hunger Atlas, which was released by a University of Missouri research team, one in four Missouri families with children living at home worries about putting enough food on the table.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 900,000 Missourians have difficulty obtaining sufficient food to lead active and healthy lives. While public and private programs provide a safety net for many of these households, nearly 420,000 Missourians cannot meet their food needs consistently. These numbers are up from the last Missouri Hunger Atlas, released in 2008.

“Food insecurity goes beyond the table; it has serious economic consequences as well,” said Sandy Rikoon, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security at MU that released the atlas. “People who are not eating healthily or are not able to provide enough food to their children will miss days at work, experience declines in their health and experience more anxiety, thus creating significant economic losses.”

This atlas is the only study in the country to document food insecurity in every county in a state. The atlas details which counties have the highest and lowest percentages of need and which counties are doing the best job of meeting those needs. Rikoon said that one positive result was that those areas with the highest need often scored the highest in terms of doing what is necessary to meet those needs.

“Rural areas tend to have the highest food uncertainty, but regions such as southeast and south central Missouri were also high performers in meeting hunger needs,” Rikoon said. “We hope this report will help public officials identify the best places to target their efforts, identify those agencies that are successful in their missions, and bring more awareness to this issue. This is something that is faced by every state in the nation, but we are the only ones in the country who are studying the problem at a local level throughout a state.”

Information from previous surveys indicates that the national food insecurity average has risen significantly over the past decade. Currently, 14.6 percent of the U.S. population is considered “food insecure,” indicating that there are difficulties in obtaining adequate amounts of food to feed the household. While Missouri did better than the national average in the mid-1990s, the state has fallen behind. Nearly 16 percent of the Missouri population is considered “food insecure.”

Rikoon, who also is a Curator’s Professor of Rural Sociology in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, led a team that included Joan Hermsen, associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Science; Nikki Raedeke, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology in the College of Human and Environmental Sciences; Matt Foulkes, associate professor of geography; and Colleen Heflin, associate professor of the Truman School of Public Affairs.

The report can be accessed on the web at: http://www.missourifamilies.org/mohungeratlas/

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