Many Missouri agencies, organizations and individuals take aim at food insecurity

In Missouri, 1 in 5 children are food insecure. Rebecca Mott is hoping to change that.

Mott is a senior research associate in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, and an adjunct instructor for the Agricultural Education and Leadership department in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Her research is examining how youth development organizations in Missouri are working to address food insecurity.

According to the USDA, in 2015, 48 million people in the U.S. lived in a food-insecure household. Many organizations are working to combat food insecurity, but Mott’s study is looking specifically at youth development organizations and how they envision, plan and mobilize food packing events and food drives.

Mott is using qualitative research methods including focus groups all over Missouri. From the Missouri State Fair to a training session with the Missouri State FFA Officers, Mott is eager to find the answer.

“The importance of these focus groups is not just to understand the impact that it has on food insecurity in our state, but to understand the impact that these events have on the lives of the young people participating in and organizing these events,” Mott said.

Mott organized a roundtable discussion at the Missouri FFA State Officer summer training to gauge the interest in being part of a focus group. Volunteers had the opportunity to participate in qualitative research at the conclusion of packing events.

“These focus groups provide individuals to share their experiences and process the impact of these events,” said Elizabeth Brooks, Missouri FFA state vice president.

Brooks was a participant of a semi-structured focus group at the 2019 Missouri State Fair that was conducted by Mott and Tanner Adkins, a 4-H field specialist for MU Extension.

“I am involved in youth organizations that take concise steps to fight childhood hunger and food insecurity in many different ways, and I wanted to share it with [her] to enrich her research,” Brooks said.

In addition to Mott’s research, several agencies and organizations are mobilizing to fight food insecurity in Missouri. One of those is an initiative at the Missouri Department of Agriculture called “Feed More.”

Missouri Farmers Care and Missouri FFA have also focused on fighting food insecurity through the Drive to Feed Kids Initiative.

“This year at the Missouri State Fair, MFC and Missouri FFA rounded out their year packing 128,640 meals and donating $175,000 to Feeding Missouri,” said Sydnee Mason, Missouri Farmers Care outreach coordinator.  

These donations have since been distributed to the six regional food banks of Missouri and will impact the lives of many.  Hoping to continue this effort, Missouri Farmers Care and Missouri FFA are already preparing for next year.