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What would America look like, if we were a nation without Faith?

Faith in Hunger: Rural Missouri

Representative Vicky Hartzler (MO-4)

In Missouri last year about 14 percent of the population utilized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the government’s most extensive anti-hunger program. The federal government issued over $1.2 billion in SNAP benefits to almost 850,000 Missourians in 2015 – around $125 per month per person. Yet, as beneficial as this program continues to be, food insecurity rates in Missouri have been rising over the last 10 years. In 2015, Missouri was rated as the tenth most food insecure state in the nation, meaning only nine states had more difficulty accessing a steady stream of food.

Randolph County, a county of roughly 25,000 people in central Missouri, is considered relatively "secure" compared to the rest of the state. Almost 1 out of every 5 people in the county - 4,240 people - are food insecure. Only a little over half of those, 54 percent, are eligible for SNAP benefits. That's almost 2,000 neighbors, friends, and relatives who are not eligible. Are they left to go hungry? No.

One of six food banks in Missouri, works with over 130 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other agencies in a 32-county area to ensure food gets into the hands of those who need it most. Nearly half of these organizations are faith-based groups looking to help their local communities. Supported by the selflessness of thousands of volunteers, contributors, and by county ministerial alliances, these organizations foster hope and encouragement among Missouri communities.

In Moberly, a small town of about 14,000, but the largest in Randolph County, one such organization provides food to 1,800 families in the area each month. In 2015, it distributed over 425,000 pounds of food to families in need. Another food pantry in Moberly, in 2015 distributed more than 672,000 pounds of food to area residents in need of food.

This is a small snapshot of a small town in a small rural county in central Missouri. Faith-based organizations like these can be found all across the country. A nationwide network of food banks operates over 58,000 food programs through the work of over 46,000 agencies. Of those agencies, 62 percent are faith-based organizations.

More than half of the 46.5 million people served by these food banks each year are also receiving SNAP benefits, but they must also rely on the generosity, selflessness, and faith of the religious non-profits of the world. What does America look like without faith? Hungry.