National Survey Finds Food Hardship Decreasing In Most of U.S. – But Not Missouri

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–   3 September 2015

National Survey Finds Food Hardship Decreasing In Most of United States – But Not Missouri

A Gallup survey found that the number of Americans experiencing food hardship has declined during the first half of 2015 – except in Missouri and three other states.

Nationwide the percentage of those surveyed who said they struggled to afford the food their family needed declined from 17.1% of respondents in 2014 to 15.8% in 2015.  That decline is consistent with the national trend the Gallup organization has charted for the past several years.

Unfortunately, in Missouri the number saying they struggled to afford food increased from 2014 to 2015.  Last year 16.8% of surveyed Missourians said they struggled.  This year 17.3% of those surveyed said they struggled to afford enough food, an increase of one-half of one percent.  That works out to about 30,000 additional food insecure people in Missouri in 2015.

Nevada saw the largest increase, 1.6% from 2014 to 2015.  Utah’s total grew by two tenths of one percent.  Maine and Oklahoma showed smaller –one tenth of one percent – increases from 2014 to 2015.  Nationwide 33 states reported fewer households struggling to afford food.  (A few low population states, such as Delaware and Rhode Island, had too few survey respondents to draw a state

The Food Research Action Center analyzed the Gallup data.  They cite an improving economy and the success of government anti-hunger efforts such as food stamps and school meals in mitigating hunger.  At the same time, they note that number of Americans struggling to afford enough food needs to be reduced.

Empower Missouri has been following trends in this state.  They note three factors which could be impacting food hardship in Missouri

► The reorganization of the Family Support Division, which handles food stamps, has caused confusion and problems for tens of thousands of Missouri families.

► Missouri is not creating enough new, full time jobs with good wages to lift working families out of poverty.

► Food pantries and other charities have been stretched thin by years of high utilization, resulting in more families being unable to access all the help they need.

“This is not good news but it’s not unexpected,” Empower Missouri executive director Jeanette Mott Oxford explains.  “We have long known that hunger is a bit more common in Missouri than in many other states.  Empower Missouri and a variety of other groups have been working hard to reduce the sting of hunger but we know we have much more to do.”

Hunger, like poverty, is more prevalent in some parts of Missouri.  “Large swaths of the Ozarks and the bootheel have better than one resident in four living in poverty,”  Empower Missouri hunger task force chair Glenn Koenen notes.  “And, we have pockets of high poverty in every corner of the state.  Hunger follows poverty.  We shouldn’t be surprised that Missouri is ‘less than average.’  We must keep working to change that.”

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