Hunger in the Heartland: COVID-19 compounds food insecurity for thousands of area families

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Carolyn Wood never imagined she would have to rely on a food bank to keep her family fed. However, the proud local grandmother who is temporarily out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic says ultimately, getting help was an easy decision.

“I don’t make enough to feed all of us and pay the bills,” Wood said. “I do have some help paying the bills, but as far as feeding all of us, I don’t make enough and it’s been very tight for us.”

Wood represents thousands of other area families who are newly navigating the wide array of relief services available for hungry families.

Harvesters reports a 40% surge in families in desperate need of food to put on the table.  

“There is a huge uptick, and a huge need,” said Betty Bolles, a volunteer at a recent Harvesters food distribution event at United Methodist Church in Independence.

Blake Haynes with Second Harvest Community Food Bank says one of the most alarming trends is food insecurity among children in the area. Before the pandemic, one in seven children dealt with food insecurity. Which is to say, they didn’t know where their next meal will come from. Now, after months of quarantine and families struggling without a paycheck, food insecurity is a reality for one in four area kids.

“And that childhood insecurity rate is 26.5% in our area,” Haynes said. “So you’re talking about a 9.3% increase almost doubling 50% more than what we expected.”

Haynes says, heartbreakingly, for many, cutting groceries out the family budget has been an increasingly common.

“The thinking is, ‘I’m going to choose to pay for my water, I’m going to choose to pay for my electricity, I’m going to choose to pay for medication, that my children need. Versus going out and buying groceries in the grocery store.'”

Betty Bolles says volunteers and cash donations, of course, are always accepted. But more than anything, she’s asking everyone to remember the many families going hungry during the quarantine.

“Just pray for these people, I mean their hurting there is real hurt,” Bolles said. “If we think this is not real, then we are living under a rock because it is real.”

If you or anyone you know needs help getting something to eat, please explore the following local resources:

Second Harvest Community Food Bank

Feeding America

Feeding Missouri


Christ United Methodist Church in Independence



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