While unemployment rates are decreasing, the economic recovery still isn't trickling down to the dinner table for too many hungry Missourians. That's according to Monica Palmer with the Missouri Food Bank Association. She says 2013 was a record-breaking year, with more than 100 million pounds of food distributed across the state - a 23 percent jump from the year before.
Palmer says more Missouri families are finding they simply can't stretch their budgets any further. "Their income is not keeping up, because groceries are going up, childcare is going up, everything is going up, but wages are not competing - they're actually going down," Palmer said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Missouri number two in the nation for "very low food security," which means many of the state's residents have a hard time consistently providing food for themselves and their families. More information on accessing or donating to local food banks is at FeedingMissouri.org.
Palmer says not only are more people visiting the state's food banks for the first time, they're relying on them for longer periods of time. She says that has led to a shift in the food bank mission. "Historically, food banks are the organizations that help with emergency needs," Palmer said. "But over the last several years we've seen food banks supplying more maintenance food because people aren't finding the jobs, they're not getting back on their feet quite as much."
Palmer says cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program last year equated to three and a half million lost meals for Missouri families. While the recently-passed federal Farm Bill does allocate an additional 200-million dollars to food banks nationwide, Palmer says it's too soon to know how much of an impact it will have.