It is a mission with momentum. The Drive to Feed Kids is once again under way, and this year’s goal is to pack 100,000 nutritious, kid-friendly meals at the Missouri State Fair.
In 2017, Missouri Farmers Care launched this effort to combat childhood food insecurity and showcase Missouri agriculture. The inaugural campaign raised close to $150,000 along with more than 9,000 pounds of food donations. With the help of Missouri FFA students, some 52,000 nutritious meals were packed for children in need. The meals were distributed by Feeding Missouri, a coalition of Missouri food banks.
Organizers want to build on last year’s success.
For those not affected by it, food insecurity might not be top of mind, but it is more pervasive than most people realize. According to 2017 research from USDA, 15 percent of households in rural areas are food insecure. Some factors that lead to higher levels of food insecurity among rural residents stand out. Compared to urban areas, rural places have a higher concentration of low-wage employment and, on average, lower levels of education. Yet, some contributors to food insecurity in rural areas are less obvious. There are fewer work-support services such as flexible and affordable childcare. Public transportation is less available. The combination of these factors makes food insecurity among rural households generally higher than in urban households.
Wide-based research shows that food insecurity is an obstacle to educational success, which has knock-on effects on social costs for rural communities. Such problems can become self-perpetuating.
Funds raised from the Drive to Feed Kids campaign are focused on child-friendly meals that are often distributed in backpacks or after-school programs that put food directly in the hands of children in need.
“We have seen hunger and food insecurity increase in rural areas over the past decade,” said Dr. Alan Wessler, vice president of MFA’s Feed Division and chairman of Missouri Farmers Care. “Some things are out of our control. We can’t control the economy. We can’t make rapid recoveries for rural communities who have suffered economic setbacks. What we can do is join together as an agricultural community to do what agriculture does best—feed people. That’s why Missouri Farmers Care, with its more than 40 member organizations, is leading the way with Drive to Feed Kids.”
The 2018 Drive to Feed Kids event will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. The event coincides with the Missouri FFA Food Insecurity Service Day where hundreds of FFA members from across the state will come together to pack 100,000 meals. On Saturday, Aug. 18, the drive will culminate with a check presentation to Feeding Missouri during the Cole Swindell concert.