'Hunger can happen to anyone': Missouri 4-H event spotlights food insecurity

  • Published: Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021

SEDALIA, Mo. – Missouri 4-H’ers and friends packed 450 boxes of food for distribution to veterans and their families. The food packing effort at the 2021 Missouri State Fair in Sedalia was just one way 4-H’ers are expanding their efforts to address food insecurity in the state.

4-H’ers invited their families and fair visitors to help pack boxes, which were delivered to the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri. They also provided educational resources to help people understand the causes, scope and impact of hunger in Missouri.

The daylong activity in the 4-H Building at the state fair was held in partnership with Missouri Farmers Care’s Drive to Feed Kids campaign and Feeding Missouri, a statewide network of food banks.

Rebecca Mott, University of Missouri assistant teaching professor of agriculture education and leadership, said the activity “was designed to raise awareness and dispel some of the myths around hunger, such as only people who don’t work and only people who’ve made really bad choices end up hungry. Food insecurity and hunger can happen to anyone. Most of us are a job loss away from having to make hard decisions about what we can afford.”

Participants were invited to explore the Missouri Hunger Atlas and add hunger facts they learned about their own counties. They were also asked to complete “commitment cards” that offered suggestions for how to fight hunger and educate others in their communities about food insecurity.

“Through the food insecurity map and activity, youth were able to see that food insecurity impacts all parts of our state, and the packing event gave them an opportunity to contribute to the community in a tangible way,” said Maria Calvert, agriculture and natural resources educator with MU Extension’s 4-H Center for Youth Development.

“Ending hunger in our state will require the help of the next generation of Missouri’s leaders,” said Scott Baker, state director of Feeding Missouri. “The efforts of 4-H not only help get food to those who need it but also shine the light on this persistent problem.”

The state fair event was built on Mott’s research on how hunger affects youths. During her years as a K-12 teacher in rural Missouri, she learned how pervasive food insecurity was. “The reality is that we have 4-H and FFA members involved in these hunger efforts who don’t have enough to eat,” Mott said.

In “‘Out of Place Around Other People’: Experiences of Young People Who Live With Food Insecurity,” a 2018 paper Mott co-authored, rural middle school students offered insights into how local support networks and programs can help youths experiencing food insecurity feel accepted and supported by their communities.

“Circumstances happen beyond our control,” she said. “Your car breaks down and you don’t have a running car to get to a job. You are laid off during the recession and don’t live in an area where there are other jobs, and you can’t afford to move. Someone in your family has a health crisis. It might be your neighbor who needs extra help today and might be you tomorrow.”

Related story:

Missouri 4-H'ers donate more than a half-ton of protein to fight food insecurity

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4-H'ers and volunteers pack food boxes at the 2021 Missouri State Fair. The boxes were delivered to the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri.

Writer: Katherine Foran

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Rebecca Mott

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