Food insecurity in Missouri higher than national average

Newton County charities see increase in need

Volunteering at The Help Center in Neosho is Debbie Ruark’s favorite pass time because it keeps her hands busy.

“It would drive me crazy to be sitting and sit idle and not be able to contribute,” Ruark explains.

She’s a throat cancer survivor and has to use an electrolarynx.

Her circumstances make it hard for her to find a job, so she receives some food stamps and has had to get food from The Help Center from time to time.

“To literally not know where my next meal is coming from… I could not fathom,” Ruark says. “My heart is for single mothers and single parents. It’s very much a struggle.”

A new report by the USDA shows that the percentage of food-insecure people in Missouri — 12 percent — is higher than the national average of 11.7 percent.

The Help Center helps thousands of people who face food insecurity in Newton County every year.

But their numbers have increased this year.

“In 2018, we averaged about 900 families per month. So far, that’s up. In the first eight months, we’re averaging 950 per month coming in,” Donya Tomlin with The Help Center explains.

Unfortunately, Tomlin anticipates their numbers this year exceeding last year’s totals.

Last year, they served more than 10 thousand families, and more than 32 thousand individuals.

“People who are filing for disabilities, that they have medical bills, that all that is taking up their food money,” Tomlin says. “So they’re finding themselves where they need us.”

East Newton United is another group that works to fight food insecurities.

For the last six years, they’ve given food to students for over the weekend with Patriot Pack.

Sadly, they are also seeing a trend on the incline.

“We were serving approximately 144 students. And we actually have seen a slight increase at the beginning of this year and we currently have 181 students that we’re already serving,” says Ashley Wolfe, a board member with East Newton United.

Local and statewide trends that both organizations feel could be changed for the better with more community support.

“Whenever you see in your own community how many people struggle with food. It makes you want to do something,” Wolfe says.

The USDA report also shows that over the past year, the percentage of people facing food insecurity in Missouri has decreased by 0.8 percent.

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