On average, 12% of Missouri households per year experienced food insecurity from 2016 to 2018, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A household is considered food insecure if its access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. Members of food insecure households aren’t necessarily starving, although they could be.
Food insecure households are split into two groups — those with “low” and “very low” food security. About one in every 25 Missouri households had very low food security, which means members of the households reported experiencing hunger because they couldn’t afford food.
Missouri had the 21st-highest rate of food insecurity out of the 50 states, and it had the 28th-highest rate of very low food security. The state’s rate of food insecurity was 0.3% higher than the national average. Its rate of very low food security was 0.2% lower than the national average.
Despite stagnant poverty rates, the state’s rate of food insecurity has dropped significantly over the past five years, from over one in six families experiencing general food insecurity and about one in 13 experiencing “very low” food insecurity between 2012 and 2014. The rates in those years made Missouri the seventh-most food insecure state in the nation.
The downward trend in food insecurity rates doesn’t correlate with the state’s poverty rates, which have only dropped a point since the recession and are a full point higher than in 1979. Rural poverty rates are still significantly higher than urban poverty rates — 17.5% of Missouri’s rural population lives in poverty, compared with 12.1% in urban areas.
Food insecurity is mainly about quality and worry. Food insecure households report either lowering the quality of the food they eat in order to sustain themselves, compromising for cheaper alternatives — like cereal for dinner — or constantly wondering if their food has gone bad.
Nationwide, households run by single mothers are the most likely to be food insecure, and black and hispanic households are almost two times more likely than white households to report insecurity.