FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Molly Crisp
Missouri Foundation for Health
Missouri Foundation for Health Launches New Initiative to
Equitable Access to Healthy, Affordable, Culturally Relevant Food
create a sustainable and just food system
ST. LOUIS, MO (January 24, 2023) – Today, Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) announced a 20-year commitment to transform the food system in momentous pursuit of systems change. The new initiative will build collaborative efforts to galvanize shifts in current policies and practices that shape the way Missourians eat. The Foundation also aims to strengthen local food systems, resulting in thriving communities where all Missourians have the foods they need to live active and healthy lives.
Insufficient access to enough food, or food insecurity
, which was intensified by the pandemic, has profound consequences on physical and mental health. In adults, lack of adequate quality food can lead to a range of health problems like increased rates of depression, diabetes, and hypertension. For children, who are still growing, the adverse effects of nutrient deficiencies can impact their immediate health as well as their development. Research has linked food insecurity in children to behavioral and cognitive problems, asthma, anemia, and poor oral health.
Between 700,000 and 860,000 Missourians are estimated to not have enough nutritious food to meet their daily needs. This disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and Latino people, immigrants, people with disabilities, rural communities, older adults, and people with low incomes.
Food insecurity is ultimately an economic problem driven by the concentration of market and political power in the industrial food system, systemic and institutionalized racism leading to racialized poverty, and economic disinvestment in rural areas and places populated by marginalized groups. Across the country, corporations profit at the expense of people and the environment.
“We see the harmful impact of the industrial food system and its effects play out today: the formula shortage, empty grocery store shelves during the pandemic, corporate agriculture undermining local farmers, supply chain issues, and pollution from factory farming, among others,” said Katie Kaufmann, MFH Senior Strategist and lead for the food justice initiative at the Foundation. “Given the complexity of this problem, we’re taking an intersectional approach that embeds racial, social, and economic justice in our work to make sure our food systems are able to provide affordable, healthy, culturally relevant food for all Missourians.”
To address urgent needs, MFH will work with food banks and pantries to improve the quality and variety of foods offered. Currently, many of these entities rely on major corporations for product donations, limiting available options for those who depend on them. MFH plans to support staff and clients working together to identify and implement solutions to make healthy food more accessible.
Additionally, MFH will bring together safety net advocates from programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Woman, Infant, and Children Food and Nutrition Services (WIC), and school meals to push for policy changes that remove barriers to access. MFH will also launch a public awareness campaign to promote SNAP enrollment and destigmatize usage.
Longer-term strategies will focus on building power and resources among those disproportionately affected by food insecurity. Loss of community control is a huge driver of food insecurity, so efforts will support sustainable regional food networks to put greater control of production and distribution into local communities. This approach will also foster the economic development of marginalized communities.
“True systems change, especially an effort working to reform and reimagine hundreds of years of consolidated and exploitative power, requires a generational commitment,” said Dr. Dwayne Proctor, MFH President and CEO. “We’re not just looking at this issue from an individual hunger standpoint, but an overhaul of an entire system – from growers and farmers to grocery store clerks and all those who work to provide us with the food we eat each day – so we can build an equitable and just food system that nourishes us all.”
This new initiative builds on the Foundation’s previous work to encourage good nutrition by increasing the availability of fresh foods. In the past, MFH has supported a myriad of programs and initiatives focused on similar topics, including most recently with the Healthy Schools Healthy Communities initiative
(HSHC). Through HSHC, Missouri partners generated thousands of positive changes in their communities like including salad bars at schools and adding mobile food markets in convenient locations to ensure students and residents had nutritious food options.
“We’re continuing to learn from our prior efforts about what more is needed to address the systemic inequalities in our food system,” said Donna Checkett, MFH Board Chair. “This new initiative is taking a comprehensive approach that embodies the Foundation’s values, which is why we’ve made this unprecedented 20-year commitment and are focused on building strong partnerships centered on trust and collaboration with those most impacted to help guide this work.”
About Missouri Foundation for Health
Missouri Foundation for Health is building a more equitable future through collaboration, convening, knowledge sharing, and strategic investment. Working in partnership with communities and nonprofits, MFH is transforming systems to eliminate inequities within all aspects of health and addressing the social and economic factors that shape health outcomes.