I am happy to report that there has been some positive news about alleviating hunger in the state. On days where we all feel like nothing good is happening, these small steps forward can help keep us on our journey for justice.
The first bit of good news was reported in this year’s School Breakfast Scorecard, released Wednesday by the Food Research & Action Center. Missouri is reaching more kids than ever with school breakfasts. Last school year 226,000 Missouri students received breakfast at school, which is an increase from the 2016/2017 school year. This was accomplished by the strong outreach that is being done by The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and other non-profit partners across Missouri. Having breakfast every morning has been shown to increase students focus and academic success as well as reduce school absences. The more that our academic institutions can do to help students succeed the better and the increased availability of school breakfast is one way that success can happen. Empower Missouri is encouraged by the Department and by many of Missouri’s school districts willingness to implement this program for their students.
In other good news, this past week Governor Parson and the First Lady launched the Heart for the Hungry Food Drive. This food drive will be taking place on February 16th at the Governor’s Mansion. The Parsons hope to collect 2019 cans of food which will then be donated to the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri in Columbia. The donated food will truly help the families in Mid-Missouri who are struggling every day to make ends meet, even with the assistance they might receive with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP). These types of food drives are a great step to alleviating hunger. But, as we know from our work, hunger is something that can only be solved when public and private entities work together. From an advocacy perspective, Empower Missouri hopes this food drive will open the door for advocates across the state to discuss with their policy makers (including the Governor) the magnitude that the issue of hunger and poverty have on Missourians. (For example, according to the Missouri Hunger Atlas, 980,000 Missourians experience food insecurity at some point during the year and Missouri ranks among the top ten states with the highest percentage of households classified as food insecure or having very low food security). It also opens the door for the discussion of how Missouri needs to be supporting policies that help struggling families not policies that push families further down.
That leads us to the final positive news…
Senate Bill 4, which would impose strict work tracking programs on SNAP recipients and most likely cut thousands of adults and children from the program, has been laid over to the informal calendar in the Senate. This move has slowed the bill’s progress down, which is good news! Empower Missouri believes that the policy makers are listening to the concerns that advocates from across Missouri have expressed on this legislation in hearings, in press statements and in one-on-one meetings. We are continuing to watch the House version of these bills; so continued pressure is still needed. We will continue to update you on any significant movement of these bills.
When on a long journey for justice, we must pause and recognize the small victories along the way.
Christine Woody, MSW
St. Louis Regional Coordinator