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Going Public: Food Insecurity Rates Rise In Southeast MO Due To Pandemic Food Shortages, Price Hikes

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Southeast Missouri Food Bank

The pandemic has greatly impacted food security nationwide. The World Food Program shared that the number of people facing severe hunger or malnutrition has more than doubled since March 2020.

According to the WFP, approximately 283 million people are experiencing these conditions due to COVID-19, as of the most recent report.

Unemployment, inflation, and supply chain issues have caused individuals, families, and local donation organizations to experience difficulty accessing food.

The Southeast Missouri Food Bank reports that in Southeast Missouri food insecurity rates have reached 17% overall and 21% for households with children.

Over the past year, despite accessibility issues, the bank has distributed 15 million pounds of food and served an average of 70,000 people per month, however, they have still felt the effects of the pandemic’s wave.

Lisa Church, Chief Advancement Officer at the Southeast Missouri Food Bank explains that prices of both food and fuel are increasing and have majorly impacted donation levels.

“We spent three times as much buying food as we did pre-pandemic, that's due to higher need, freight costs for loads we buy doubled in some cases, and because of supply chain issues we didn’t receive the same level of donations from retailers and manufacturers,” said Church.

In Missouri food prices have increased 6.8% due to demand and higher prices for fuel and transport.

Church mentions that Southeast Missouri has always had some of the states highest hunger rates.

“On the one hand, we're probably serving a few more people because people have a harder time making ends meet, and a lot of our counties are very, very rural, and in those very rural counties, there's not a lot of job opportunities sometimes,” said Church.

On the one hand, we're probably serving a few more people because people have a harder time making ends meet.

Church mentions that Southeast Missouri has always had some of the states highest hunger rates.

“On the one hand, we're probably serving a few more people because people have a harder time making ends meet, and a lot of our counties are very, very rural, and in those very rural counties, there's not a lot of job opportunities sometimes,” said Church.

Church said that the best way to support the food banks during this time is to volunteer and donate.

“The best way for people to help us is by making monetary donations because we deal in such high volumes of food. It works best for us to be able to purchase through some of the resources that we have, because we're able to take $1 and provide four meals, said Church. “If an individual takes $1 and goes into the grocery store they're not able to acquire as much so the monetary donations really work.”

Church mentions the Bank has also relied greatly on volunteer help throughout the last year in order to distribute as much food as possible to those in need.

“We held a series of mobile food distributions where we packed a truck with boxes of food, and in the community we're able to distribute food from a particular public location like a church parking lot, so we held 36 of those and that was 7200 boxes of food that had to be packed,” said Church. “So when people want to help us those are probably the two main ways to do that would be to make a monetary donation, and then also to come and volunteer and help pack boxes.”

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