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Letter to the Editor: Hunger report shows local food system investment need

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Dear editor,

As families in southwest Missouri struggle with high inflation and increased fuel prices, a new hunger report from the University of Missouri shows that many folks served by food agencies locally already were facing hard times.

According to the Food Assistance & Hunger in the Heartland report conducted in 2021, food insecurity rates in the Ozarks are “dramatically higher” compared with all Missouri households. The report shows that more than 60% of households surveyed experience low food security, meaning they have reduced quality, variety or desirability of diet. Of those households, nearly half experience very low food security, meaning they truly don’t have enough food to meet their needs.

The study also revealed the face of hunger is changing. Of those we serve, 1 in 3 live in a household with children, and nearly 1 out of every 5 are veterans of military service to our country. Older adults over the age of 65 now make up one-third of clients served – one of the largest demographic increases we’ve seen in our history. In total, 52% of households surveyed get at least half of their groceries from a food pantry supplied by Ozarks Food Harvest.

This report highlights the need for a dramatic investment in our community’s food system to make sure children, families and seniors get on the road to recovery. That responsibility falls to Ozarks Food Harvest as the report shows that we now supply 7 out of every 10 meals distributed by our network of hunger-relief charities spread across a 28-county service area.

Ozarks Food Harvest is mounting a multifaceted response to this new data and the increased need in 2022 by funding several different projects. First, we’re supplying $1 million in grant funds to our local partners, like Crosslines and Salvation Army, to help them better serve families in their communities. Second, we’re increasing food deliveries through our Mobile Food Pantry program to assist folks living in underserved and rural areas of southwest Missouri. Finally, we’re committed to continuing to deliver food free of charge to our network of community and faith-based partners across a third of the state of Missouri.

Ozarks Food Harvest is here to provide hope to the communities we serve, but we can’t do it alone. We need your help to continue investing in our community’s food system so folks in the Ozarks don’t have to struggle just to put a meal on the table.

—Bart Brown, president and CEO, Ozarks Food Harvest

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