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Ending Childhood Hunger

The expert testimony, research, scholarship, and lived experience collected by the Commission revealed the following:

  • According to Feeding America, the country’s largest food bank system, more than one in five of Missouri’s children (21.6 percent) live in food-insecure households (Feeding America, 2013). Food security “means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life” (USDA, 2015).  This amounts to more than 350,000 hungry children in Missouri (Feeding America, 2013).
  • Nationally, households headed by Black and Latino or Hispanic individuals are twice as likely as households headed by White individuals to report food insecurity among children (18 percent compared to 7 percent) (Wight & Thampi, 2010).
  • Food insecurity is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a lack of “ and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods” (Feeding America, 2013).
  • Several studies have demonstrated that food insecurity affects cognitive development among young children and is linked to poorer school performance and health(Shonkoff et. al., 2010; Jyoti et al., 2005).
  • Children who do not receive adequate nutrition necessary for strong, healthy brain development during early childhood may never recover their lost potential for cognitive growth and eventual contributions to society (Shonkoff et. al., 2010; Jyoti et al., 2005).
  • Inadequate nutritional intake during the first two years of life also correlates with increased susceptibility to infections, slowed cognitive development and physical growth, increased susceptibility to chronic diseases, and a higher risk of delivering low-birth weight babies (Shonkoff et. al., 2010; Jyoti et al., 2005). Other non-health related problems include reduced school performance, increased school dropout rates, and reduced productivity during adulthood (Hoddinott et. al., 2008).
  • One of the primary routes to feeding hungry children is through public school breakfast and lunch programs. Programs like the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program provide schools with the resources needed to give students nutritious free and reduced-cost meals (Missouri School Breakfast and Lunch Program). Roughly 450,000, or half of Missouri’s children that are enrolled in public school, receive free or reduced lunch (Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2015).
  • The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) has been working to feed more children during the summer. However, in 2014, more than 89 percent of Missouri children receiving a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year did not participate in a summer nutrition program, ranking Missouri 40th of 50 states in ensuring that children have adequate summer nutrition (FitzSimons, Anderson, Hayes & Burke, 2015).
  • Two key federal programs work to end hunger:the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Both are available to households with income below a certain threshold. The number of people participating in SNAP, the largest federal food assistance program, rose to a new high of 46.5 million in 2013, up from 33.5 million in 2009 (USDA, 2014). While some of this growth can be attributed to changes in SNAP program rules, recent studies conclude that the weak economy explains most of the increase (Ganong & Liebman, 2013). Other government programs that provided nutrition assistance in 2013 also saw high enrollment levels. For example, almost 9 million people received WIC benefits in 2013 (USDA, 2014).
  • In Missouri, over 250,000 individuals were eligible for WIC benefits in 2012, and 1.4 million were eligible for SNAP (USDA, 2014; Cunnyngham, 2015). Participation rates for those eligible range from just over 55 percent for WIC to 83 percent for SNAP (USDA, 2014; Cunnyngham, 2015).

These findings prompted the Commission to draft a recommendation that calls for changes to existing programs and new innovations with the goal of ending hunger for children and families.

To that end, the Commission issues the call to action below.

Take Action

Support great school climates

While policy changes are important to changing the landscapes of our schools, it is only effective when paired with culture changes. Engage with your child’s school to facilitate a great school climate and culture for all students, teachers and administrators. This can take the form of attending PTA meetings, starting discussion groups with other parents, or…

Tags Youth at the CenterAligning Resources to Foster Innovation and Build Capacity
Take Action 

Suggested Reading List

Feeding America (2013). Map the meal gap. Feeding America. Retrieved from:

FitzSimons, C., Anderson, S., Hayes, C., and Burke, M. (2015). Hunger doesn’t take a vacation:Summer nutrition status report. Food Research  & Action Center. Retrieved from:




  1. Cunnyngham, K. (2015). Reaching those in need:Estimates of state supplemental nutrition assistance program participation rates in 2012. USDA and Mathematic Policy Research. Retrieved from:
  2. Editorial Board. (2014). Editorial:Missouri’s hunger problem gets worse and worse. St. Louis Post Dispatch. Retrieved from:
  3. Feeding America. (2013). Map the meal gap. Feeding America. Retrieved from:
  4. FitzSimons, C., Anderson, S., Hayes, C., & Burke, M. (2015). Hunger doesn’t take a vacation:Summer nutrition status report. Food Research  & Action Center. Retrieved from:
  5. Ganong, P. & Liebman, J. (2013). Explaining trends in SNAP enrollment. (Cambridge, MA:Harvard University and NBER).
  6. Hoddinott, J., Maluccio, J., Behrman, J., Flores, R. & Martorell, R. (2008). Effect of a nutrition intervention during early childhood on economic productivity in Guatemalan adults. The Lancet371(9610), 411-416. Retrieved from:
  7. Jyoti, D. F., Frongillo, E. A., & Jones, S. J. (2005). Food insecurity affects school children’s academic performance, weight gain, and social skills. The Journal of nutrition, 135(12), 2831-2839. Retrieved from:
  8. Missouri School Breakfast and Lunch Program. Retrieved from:
  9. Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (2015). October 2014 free and reduced enrollment with individual CEP building ISP. Retrieved from:
  10. Shonkoff, J. P., Duncan, G., Yoshikawa, H., Fisher, P., & Guyer, B. (2010). The foundations of lifelong health are built in early childhood. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Retrieved from:
  11. USDA. (2014). National and state-level estimates of special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children (WIC) eligible and program reach, 2011. Retrieved from:
  12. USDA. (2015). Food Insecurity in the U.S. Retrieved from:
  13. Wight, V. & Thampi, K. (2010). Basic facts about food insecurity among children in the United States, 2008. National Center for Children in Poverty. Retrieved from: