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Food Insecurity in Missouri: Rural & Urban Food Deserts

December 8, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food deserts as areas where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. Household income and distance from grocery stores typically influence whether an area is designated as a food desert, along with other considerations, including access to personal/public transportation. Living in food deserts impacts food security, food affordability, federal nutrition program participation, health outcomes, economic and social attainments, real estate prices and more.

Over 25% of Missourians do not have easy access to affordable and nutritious food. Between 2016-2019, 12.8% of Missouri's population experienced food insecurity, with 4.8% percent experiencing very low food security, or hunger. Read more about recently proposed policy solutions to food deserts in Missouri in our related Science Notes: Tax Credits for Grocery Stores in Food Deserts & Tax Credits for Urban Agriculture in Food Deserts.

Join our roundtable discussion in December to hear from local researchers and decision-makers about how evidence-based policy-making can guide the response to and prevention of food insecurity in Missouri.

Meet the panelists

Kimberly-Ann Collins - Ballotpedia

Representative Kimberly-Ann Collins. State Representative (District 77), Missouri General Assembly.

State Representative Kimberly-Ann Collins is a lifelong resident of the 77th District and was elected to her first two-year term in November 2020. Collins graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Sciences and a minor of Arts in Chemistry. In addition to her legislative duties, Collins works hands-on everyday with individuals and families who face the reality of homelessness in the City of St. Louis. She works with grassroot organizations, such as PotBangerz, where Cathy Daniels is the founder and CEO, RedBike, where Kathleen Dunn is the founder, and City Hope STL, where Michael Robinson is the founder and CEO. She has been very involved while serving as an executive board member for the Ville Collaborative group, board member for Yeatman Liddell Full Service School, 21st Ward Event Coordinator, Member of the Area E Federation of Block Unit, Block captain, and active member of the Penrose neighborhood association.


Bill McKelvey Jr | MU Extension

Bill McKelvey, M.S. Senior Project Coordinator, University of Missouri Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security.

Bill McKelvey’s interests and experience center on building and strengthening community food systems. He has been involved in community gardening, youth gardening, farm to school, and related projects for a number of years. Currently, McKelvey works on a variety of projects including a multi-state hunger and food assistance study; the development of an web application for the Missouri Hunger Atlas; and Missouri EATs, a community development curriculum to help communities convene food system stakeholders and create plans to enhance their local food system.


Ellen K. Barnidge : SLU

Ellen Barnidge, PhD, MPH. Associate Professor, Department of Behavioral Science and Health Education at Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice.

Ellen Barnidge is a community engaged scholar partnering with grassroots community leaders and community-based organizations. Dr. Barnidge’s research examines access to basic resources needed for health, such as nutritious food options, using environmental and policy interventions in rural and urban settings. Her current work focuses on identifying and addressing basic resource needs in health care settings and examining the systems that enable resource insecurity to persist. She recently served as the National Obesity Policy, Research, and Evaluation Network Food Safety Net Working Group co- chair and a member of the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition’s Food Access Working Group. She is a Mid-America Transplant Foundation board member and chairs their community grants committee.


Kelly McGowan, MPH. Founder & Director of Built Environment Advocacy, Elevating Voices of Leaders Vying for Equity (EVOLVE)

Kelly McGowan is a proud St. Louisan and health equity advocate. Armed with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from St. Louis University and a Master of Public Health from Washington University in St. Louis, Kelly worked as a Healthy Harlem Coordinator in the Harlem Children’s Zone where she spearheaded nutrition and fitness education among students in Central Harlem. After leaving New York, Kelly returned to St. Louis where she served as the WEDO Wellness Director at the Gateway Region YMCA (WEDO is an acronym for Women Empowered to End Disparities in Obesity). In her role, she worked with North County mothers and caregivers to create healthy changes in their schools and communities. Kelly has participated in various panels and has been featured in print and radio appearances addressing health equity efforts in the St. Louis region. Most recently, Kelly has founded the new entity EVOLVE (an acronym for Elevating Voices of Leaders Vying for Equity). As Director of Built Environment Advocacy, Kelly is working to amplify community in local decision-making processes to ensure all St. Louis neighborhoods are designed for their inhabitants to thrive.


Daniel Oerther, PhD, PE, CEHS. Professor of Environmental Health Engineering at Missouri University of Science & Technology.

Dr. Daniel B. Oerther believes that empowering individuals, families, and communities with tools to support an intentional approach to healthy lifestyles is a cost effective alternative to our current over-reliance on an acute medical model of healthcare service. As a licensed Professional Engineer, Dan knows that most folks think of engineers as “driving trains”, “building things”, or “good at math”. And while many of these stereotypes are true, a lot of folks don’t realize that the first ethical obligation of every Professional Engineer is, “to hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public”. Dan works with teams of healthcare professionals – including engineers, sanitarians, nurses, and others – to co-create and co-own community-based solutions to our most pressing challenges of environmental health including food systems and nutrition, raising awareness about the importance of mental health, and ensuring access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and effective hygiene in developing communities around the globe.

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