Food Insecurity in Missouri

Blueberries at a farmer’s market.

The state of Missouri is below the national average (15.2%) for the rate of food-insecure children in every state. However, more can be done to increase food security in every community. Right now. The highest rates of food insecurity are in Missouri’s southern counties and the Bootheel region. The USDA defines food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” USDA food security experts define four levels of food security: high food security, marginal food security, low food security, and very low food security.

In the United States, food insecurity spiked beginning in the 2007 great recession. At the height, the rate of food-insecure families in the U.S. had a high around 17% in 2009. Food insecurity rates dropped as the economy improved, reaching pre-recession levels in 2016 to 2018. In 2018, the USDA estimates that 37 million people, including more than 11 million children, in the United States were food insecure. With those figures, Feeding America estimates 1 in 9 individuals (11.5%) and 1 in 7 children (15.2%) do not have consistent access to adequate food.

Food insecurity experts expect to see a marked increase in food insecurity rates because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The economic effects of the disease are hitting low income and at-risk populations the hardest, and millions have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Feeding America expects the pandemic to reverse the improvements to food insecurity that have occurred over the past decade.

Graphic recreated from Missouri Foundation for Health’s Health Equity Series: African American Health Disparities in Missouri

In Missouri, food insecurity is affecting ethnic and minority populations at disproportionate rates, according to the Missouri Foundation for Health. In 2013, 23% of Hispanic/Latinx households and 26% of Black households had low food security. Very low food insecurity rates for Hispanic/Latinx and African American populations were 17% and 15%, respectively. A quarter of Hispanic/Latinx households with children were food insecure, while 32% of African American households with children were considered food insecure. Rural populations in Missouri also experience higher rates of food insecurity. Rural households experienced a food insecurity rate of 15%, compared to 14% for urban areas.

Thanks to Missouri Foundation for Health and to Feeding America for their in-depth reports and research on food disparities in Missouri and the United States.