Summit in Missouri tackles rising child food insecurity as benefits expire

Food Insecurity News Graphic
Share To Your Social Network

(Missouri News Service – Farah Siddiqi) – As COVID-era benefits are nearing expiration, a recent Child Wellness Summit has brought together nonprofits to address urgent child well-being and food insecurity issues.

Families in Missouri grappling with inflation and high living costs are facing increased challenges, especially in providing food, utilities, and health care for children.

Jocelyn Fundoukos, Director of Communications for Operation Food Search, reported that Missouri’s child poverty rate doubled in 2022, leaving one in six children at risk of hunger. She explained that during the pandemic, her organization was able to significantly increase the number of meals served. Unlike other states, Missouri has chosen not to retain certain pandemic benefits, such as flexible summer meal distribution methods.

“It meant that we could serve more meals in a drive-through fashion. Now, it has reverted to requiring kids to eat the meals on-site, which makes it more difficult to distribute food to as many children as we could,” she stated.

Data from Missouri Kids Count indicates that last year, 33% of children in St. Louis lived in poverty, and 26% experienced food insecurity, meaning their families had no access to sufficient or quality food.

Fundoukos highlighted that obtaining enough healthy food can also be challenging due to factors such as “food deserts” in rural areas, lack of transportation, and others that prevent families from accessing available resources. She pointed out the importance of understanding that some parts of the state may not have a local grocer, but perhaps just a convenience store with limited perishable items, such as fresh produce.

“Children may be getting something to fill their stomachs and stave off extreme hunger, but they are not receiving the nutritious food needed to grow and thrive, or even to be able to focus in school or sit still and pay attention,” she added.

She noted that summit participants emphasized the need for greater collaboration across different sectors to holistically address complex issues. St. Louis Area Diaper Bank, United 4 Children, and Missouri Kids Win all participated in the dialogue, facilitated by Focus St. Louis.

Share To Your Social Network