The start of summer 2013 marks the third year in which Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security faculty and staff have gone to the field to hear the voices of people using food pantries in central and northeast Missouri. This large research project will gather data from approximately 1200 food pantry clients in 32 counties through in-depth personal interviews. The data will be used to look at a variety of challenges faced by households. The ultimate goals are to help people lead healthy and productive lives and give policy makers, agency professionals, and service providers information to develop and deliver solutions to deal with hunger and food insecurity.
More information about the research can be found on the Missouri Food Pantry Client Research page of our website.
That is the question posed by the Health Communication Research Center, a partner of the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security, as their staff embarked on the Food Stamp Challenge in March. Limiting food expenditures to $28 dollars per week (the average SNAP benefit for a person in Missouri), they set out to learn about the challenges of eating healthy on a food stamp budget and shared their experiences on the their blog. The challenge coincides with National Nutrition Month and the release of the documentary, A Place at the Table.
The Health Communication Research Center at the University of Missouri School of Journalism uses evidence-based communication tools to help strengthen public health for stronger Missouri communities. The center works with a wide range of clients and may be contacted by following this link.
Hunger on college campuses is often overlooked, but with increasing costs for tuition and housing, students often find themselves pinched. Students at the University of Missouri recently organized an event to bring the issue to light. Co-hosted by the Women’s Center, Tiger Pantry (MU’s campus-based food pantry), and the Environmental Leadership Office, Hidden Hunger included a panel of MU students who shared their personal stories about dealing with food insecurity. Ashley Vancil, a graduate student with the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security, moderated the panel. More information about the forum can be found at the Maneater and the Columbia Daily Tribune.
The 2013 Poverty Summit, sponsored by Missourians to End Poverty, took place on April 9th in Jefferson City, Missouri. The summit provided an opportunity for organizations and advocates from across the state to network, learn from one another, and develop strategies for addressing poverty in Missouri. This year’s summit featured the notable Peter Edelman, author of So Rich So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, who discussed issues related to wealth disparities, unemployment, and the working poor. Other featured speakers included Eileen Wallace and Gene Nichol.
The Missouri Foundation for Health recently awarded the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security (ICFS) a five year, nearly $500,000 grant to expand nutrition related activities with food pantries in Missouri. With this grant, the Center will build upon its current Food Pantry Nutrition Project. “We are very honored to receive this grant and are excited by the opportunity it will provide to take this work to the next level,” said Bill McKelvey, project coordinator.
A primary goal of the project is to help food pantries find ways to get healthier food into the hands of people who use pantries. By forming Wellness Groups at each participating pantry, the project will help food pantry staff, volunteers, and community members initiate projects and policies that ultimately lead to better health for food pantry clients.
Building on the successful Seeds that Feed pilot project, under this new grant ICFS and partners will distribute garden seeds and supplies to support home and community gardening efforts. Educational materials will be developed and learning opportunities are planned to build the capacity of food pantry clients to expand or start vegetable gardens.
The project will also include opportunities for food pantry staff and volunteers from across the state to network and learn from one another.
“We are trying to reach our goals by taking a variety of approaches, aimed at different levels, to make it easier for pantry clients to access and consume healthy foods and help food pantries sustain health and nutrition efforts over the long term,” said McKelvey.
The first two food pantries enrolled in the project are the Shelby County Food Pantry and St. James Caring Center. The project is supported by a host of partners including the Health Communication Research Center, the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, University of Missouri Extension, and the Missouri Food Bank Association.
The December edition of Amber Waves highlights a concerning trend: the growth and concentration of rural poverty. While poverty grew throughout the United States as a result of the 2001 and 2007-2009 economic recessions, it grew faster in rural areas, compared to metropolitan areas. The report notes that “in 2006-10, 26.2 percent of the Nation’s nonmetro [i.e. rural] counties were high poverty, 5.8 percentage points higher than in 2000.” By comparison, 10.3 percent of metropolitan counties were high poverty counties in 2006-10, increasing 3.7 percentage points from 2000.
The report also points to the impact of poverty, noting that “research has shown that the poor living in areas where poverty is prevalent face impediments beyond those of their individual circumstances. Concentrated poverty contributes to poor housing and health conditions, higher crime and school dropout rates, as well as employment dislocations. As a result, economic conditions in very poor areas can create limited opportunities for poor residents that become self-perpetuating.”
The full article by Tracy Farrigan and Timothy Parker, along with supporting documents and data, can all be accessed through the online Amber Waves magazine, a publication of the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Another publication from USDA worth looking in to is Rural America at a Glance, 2012 Edition.
A Yes magazine article by Frances Moore Lappé tells the story of how Brazil’s fourth largest city, Belo Horizonte, tackled the issue of hunger. Using a combination of policy and market measures, along with citizen engagement, the city reached nearly 40 percent of it’s 2.5 million citizens through various hunger relief and nutrition efforts and reduced infant mortality by half over a 10 year period. In particular, the city worked to link local farmers with consumers through the establishment of farmers’ markets, used pricing schemes to make certain fruits and vegetables more affordable, and established “People’s Restaurants” (Restaurante Poplular) to serve inexpensive, wholesome meals. Other initiatives focused on community and school gardens and nutrition education. These efforts stemmed from a philosophy that access to good food is a human right.
The Community Food Resource Center, part of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, stands out for their efforts to incorporate programs and projects that link people to community-based food systems. They have active home and community gardening programs, a 2.5 acre urban farm, and farmers’ markets that provide a source of fresh food to the community. The Resource Center also supports a unique Community Food Consignment Program which enables home gardeners and small farmers to consign their produce for sale at local farmers’ markets.
Robert Ojeda, vice president of the Community Food Resource Center, was recently on the University of Missouri campus as part of the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security Research Symposium. His presentation, along with the presentations of other invited speakers, can be found here.
The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security, Dr. Sandy Rikoon, was featured on Straight from the Heartland, a radio program of AgWeb, on Thanksgiving day. The report examined hunger in the U.S. and Missouri and gaps in our understanding of the extent of hunger in communities. Rikoon described how research projects of the Center, namely the Missouri Hunger Atlas, provide local officials and agency professionals with county level information about food insecurity and how well private and public hunger relief programs are meeting the need. Roughly 15% of Missourians worry about having enough to eat. Of these, about 40% will at some point have to reduce portions, skip meals, or otherwise change their eating patterns.
The Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security recently hosted a national symposium, Food Insecurity: Assessing Disparities, Consequences, and Policies. Experts from diverse academic disciplines gathered with community activists and practitioners to assess the state of food insecurity and food justice and unpack a simple question with incredibly complex answers: where do we go from here?
Mike Burden, Senior Information Specialist with the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (CAFNR), covered the event. His story, along with audio clips and images, appeared in CAFNR News. Speakers’ presentations and biographies are also available.