University of Missouri Hosts Food Insecurity in America Symposium

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COLUMBIA - Food Insecurity in America is the topic of the University of Missouri Symposium that begins Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Researchers will gather from schools across the country, including schools in Ohio, Conn., S.C., and Ore.  The purpose of the symposium is to bring researchers and activists together to help find solutions for food insecurity.

Missouri is fifth in the country for food insecurity and sixteen percent of Mid-Missouri are food insecure; that means one in four children don't know where their next meal will come from.  

Sandy Rikoon is the director of MU's Interdisciplinary Center for Food Safety and is coordinating the event.  He said topics of the symposium will include obstacles to food availability, distribution and affordability and the physical and mental health impacts of lack of food.  Rikoon said with ten percent of Columbia experiencing food insecurity, this kind of symposium is needed to help educate people of the local, and national, issue at hand.

"Food insecurity affects 50 million people, but there's no department of hunger, there's no census of hunger, there's really very little known," Rikoon said.

Rikoon also said that since people view Columbia as a fairly affluent area, it's easy for those that are hungry to "fall through the cracks."

Todd Pridemore is the Development Supervisor for the Central and Northeast Missouri Food Bank.  He said he thinks these topics pertain to Columbia and Boone County as the food bank has seen food insecurity increase in the area since 2009 with the economy decline.  Pridemore also said lack of food is capable of affecting people on many different levels, not just physically.

"There's the mental taxation, just the draining emotionally, of how am I going to find food, how am I going to provide for my family if I'm not in a situation to be able to purchase food," Pridemore said.

Patricia Allen will be the first speaker Wednesday at the symposium.  Allen is the chair of the Department of Food Systems and Society at Marylhurst University.  She will discuss food justice and her research on food system localization and the inequality in food labor.  

The event will be at Stotler Lounge on the MU campus and will continue Thursday and Friday.