Food pantries in Columbia are working to decrease the number of individuals facing food insecurity in surrounding areas and on the University of Missouri campus.
Central Pantry, the largest food pantry in Mid-Missouri, has recently noticed a decrease in the number of individuals they serve. However, Tiger Pantry Director Tyler Hessler has noticed an increase in the number of individuals served by the University of Missouri’s food pantry.
“We have had an increase in clients just because more people know we are available,” Hessler said. “I wouldn’t say that the level of food insecurity has necessarily increased, but we are definitely reaching out to more people so we are going to have more clients coming into the pantry. We work three days a week and there are 12 to 16 clients per shift, and those aren’t all students necessarily because we serve students, faculty and staff. Roughly 90 percent are students, graduate and undergraduate.”
On the other hand, Sean Ross, Central Pantry supervisor, said he is happily surprised by the recent change in the number of people the pantry serves.
“I’ve been here 11 years, the first 10 years it went up every year, sometimes as much as 15 percent in a year. This year it’s coming down. It’s actually coming down about 8 to 10 percent a month,” Ross said. “We serve about 170 families a day and we are open six days a week.”
Ross is optimistic about a continued decrease in the amount of food insecurity in Columbia and surrounding areas. His hope rises from nutrition education.
“(We offer) some nutrition information, but its done through MU,” Ross said. “It’s not provided by us we just provide the audience.”
He predicts the level of food insecurity will continue to decrease as food pantries, such as Central Pantry, work to provide food to the people of Columbia.
“We average giving out about 30 pounds a person per person in your family, so if you have five people in your family you’re getting about 150 pounds of food from us,” Ross said. “That should do something toward alleviating that problem.”
Central Pantry and Tiger Pantry both receive the majority of their donations from the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. The food bank distributed 33 million pounds of food in central and northeast Missouri in 2014. Anyone can contribute to the fight against food insecurity. For more information, see the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri website.