Hunger is on the rise in Missouri even as Congress cuts assistance programs

Oct 11, 2013

SNAP is a program that provides financial assistance to low-income people for purchasing food
SNAP is a program that provides financial assistance to low-income people for purchasing food
Credit USDA

Missouri already has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country, and one of the lowest rates of assistance available to families, according to Sandy Rikoon, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security. Upcoming cuts in to benefits could have an unusually harmful effect on Missouri residents living below the poverty line.

Benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, will automatically decrease, starting November 1. Congress had raised the benefits in 2009 but that raise is set to expire in November and Congress did not vote to extend it. The cut could mean anything from $10 less to $36 less per family. 950,345 Missourians receive SNAP benefits and 19,525 people in Boone County use the program.

According to the Missouri Hunger Atlas, Missouri levels of food insecurity have been on the rise consistently over the last 15 years. The state has gone from nine percent of the population being food insecure to over 16 percent. People who are food insecure and hungry increased five percent over the last 12 years, which was the highest increase in the country. At the same time, SNAP benefits will be decrease from by 10 cents to $1.30 per day, according to Jeanette Mott Oxford, Executive Director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare.

“If you look at Missouri as a state, we’re doing horribly,” said Rikoon, at a taping of Intersection this week. “Even times when the economy was so-called booming, it wasn’t an equitable booming that was taking place.”

The maximum Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefit for a family of three in Missouri is just $292 per month, which puts Missouri near the bottom of the nation for these welfare benefits.

Oxford said the gap between decreasing benefits and increasing need for assistance programs could result in a higher number of hungry Missourians living in poverty.

Mott Oxford and Rikoon were on a recent episode of KBIA's talk show, Intersection. To hear more about what they had to say about food insecurity and poverty in Missouri, watch or listen to the show here.