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Missouri Association for Social Welfare
A Citizen's Voice for Social Justice Since 1901
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July 3, 2015

New Hunger Report

MASW published a report in May 2000, "FOOD STAMPS: Declining Access for Missouri's Food-Insecure & Eligible Families." It describes the significant drop in food stamp participation in Missouri among eligible people since welfare reform was implemented in 1997. It compares the number of persons on food stamps per county to the number in poverty. The summary of the report is below. The complete report, 25 pages, can be purchased for $5.

Summary of Findings

1. A significant number of Missourians are hungry

The rate of food insecurity for Missouri between 1996-1998 was 8.6% of households. The rate of hunger in Missouri for the same time period was 2.9% of households.
(Source: USDA, "Measuring Food Security in the United States," 1999)

A survey of Missourians using emergency food providers in 1998 reported that 87% worried about "running out of food before getting enough money to buy more." Nearly 58% reported they eat less than they think they should because they don't have enough money. Over 50% reported they are "often hungry, but don't eat because they can’t afford to buy food." 34% of respondents said, "I know my child(ren) is/are hungry, but I just can't afford more food".

Missouri emergency food providers continue to struggle to meet the needs of their clients. 50% of the providers reported in the fourth quarter of 1998 that they had run out of food, as in 1997. 87% of Missouri emergency food providers surveyed in the fourth quarter of 1998 said they thought that the extent of hunger had increased. 51% of providers surveyed in the fourth quarter of 1998 served between 100 and 500 households per month with at least a three-day supply of food.

2. Hungry Missourians are eligible for food stamps, but are not receiving them.

The numbers of FS clients in Missouri dropped by 144,000 (25%), from 1996 to 1998, even though the numbers in poverty -- and FS eligibles -- increased by 29,000. FS rolls in Missouri dropped a third (33.7%) from March 1994 to October 1998. Missouri served 57% of those eligible for FS in 1999.

A 1995 survey of those using emergency food providers reported 61% participating in the food stamp program. In 1998, 51.1% of respondents reported participating in the food stamp program.

The average percentage of eligibles served in Missouri is 57%.
80 counties served less than the average.

In 1999, Nodaway County served the lowest percent of those eligible for food stamps at 21%. The ten counties serving the lowest percentage of eligible people are: Nodaway, Gentry 29%, Scotland 33%, Moniteau 34%, Monroe 34%, Atchison 34%, Worth 34%, Adair 35%, Holt 35%, and Schuyler 35%. They are located predominately in the northern portion of Missouri with five counties located in the extreme northwest corner of the state. FS participation in those counties decreased by 34% from 1997 to 1999.

In 1999, Mississippi County served the highest percent of those eligible for food stamps at 89%. The ten counties serving the highest percentage of eligibles are: Mississippi, Dunklin 79%, Pemiscot 79%, Scott 76%, Washington 74%, New Madrid 73%, St. Louis City 73%, St. Francois 69%, Lincoln 68%, and Ripley 67%. They are predominately located in the Southeast portion of Missouri with five of the counties located in the extreme southeast corner of the state (Bootheel Region). 35 counties served above the state average of eligible persons.

The average rate of FS decline for Missouri was 19% from 1997 to 1999. Worth County experienced the largest decline in FS participation from 1997 to 1999 at 47%. Taney County actually increased participation by 3% from 1997 to 1999.

The ten counties that experienced the smallest decline in food stamp participation from 1997 to 1999 decreased participation by an average of 5%.

3. Opinions of FS Participation by Missouri DFS County Offices

DFS offices in the twenty counties serving the highest and the lowest number of eligible persons were contacted to identify what strategies they had in place to ensure that persons in their areas who were eligible for food stamps were applying. The results were as follows:

Counties serving the highest number of eligibles identified at least one strategy in place to outreach those believed to be eligible for FS but not participating.

Counties serving the lowest number of eligibles were more likely to be in the strategy development stage.

Almost all of the respondents discussed coordinating with local churches or a ministerial alliance to provide outreach. However, none of the respondents said they worked closely with a local food pantry for referrals. They were generally not certain that food pantries made referrals to the DFS office.

Almost all respondents identified the senior population as the one group that was probably eligible, but not participating. They explained that the elderly probably did not see the benefit of applying for food stamps when they would most likely only get a small amount, $10 to $20 per month in assistance. [ED. NOTE: Seniors have always been eligible for relatively small amounts of FS and have frequently chosen to not participate to avoid the inconvenience. If their participation rate has dropped, it cannot be explained, in our opinion, by the low benefits.]

Almost all respondents felt that people felt a "stigma" in using food stamps, which inhibited them from applying for food stamps. [ED NOTE: Stigma has always characterized FS, so is not, in our opinion a satisfactory explanation for the declining participation rate.]

Almost all respondents felt that the three-month recertification policy and the new Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system, did not inhibit food stamp applicants. [ED. NOTE: Certain state and national advocacy organizations are convinced that three-month recertification and EBT do indeed suppress participation. Further research is indicated.]


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