Southeast Missouri is prone to disasters. We’re on the New Madrid Earthquake Fault and we often have catastrophic flooding since we’re surrounded by multiple rivers. People are still recovering from heavy flooding and a tornado last year. We’ve had major employers close leaving many with reduced or no income which hurts other businesses as well. This is a high-poverty and low-income area. It’s hard to break the poverty cycle with all these challenges. A few years ago, I lost my job and was dependent on the Flame of Hope Food Pantry in East Prairie. It could happen to anyone.
One in five families in southeast Missouri is food insecure. That means that they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Yes, there’s a hunger problem, but there’s so much we can do to help. Hunger is solvable. We just have to work together.
SEMO Food Bank is a partner with Feeding America, which is the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity, and one of six Missouri food banks. We distribute 10.5 million pounds throughout 16 counties through our network of 180 non-profit agencies. Our network consists of food pantries, soup kitchens, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, children’s rehabilitation programs, and senior programs. We serve 60,000 individuals every month. The top three requested items from clients are produce, dairy, and protein. Those are the most expensive and the least donated items. About 17% of donations are produce, and health experts recommend that it should be 50%. Our clients have twice the rate of diet-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Our biggest donor is Missouri Foundation for Health. With a grant from them, we were able to purchase and move into this building in 2014. The building is three times larger than our previous rented facility. Another grant from MFH helped us purchase a second cooler to store additional produce and dairy.
Our communities are only as strong as our people. And our people—our families, friends, and neighbors—are strong when they have access to the food, shelter, health care, and economic support they need to lead healthy lives. This is true no matter who you are or where you live. When we look out for one another, we all see #TheNetBenefit.