National Hunger Atlas and Summit
The word “hunger” can conjure many strong images: famine-ravaged countries on faraway continents, or stretches of deeply impoverished areas in big cities. However, researchers at the University of Missouri are finding – and publicizing – that hunger in Missouri comes in many forms, and often in our own backyard.
Sandy Rikoon, director of MU’s Interdisciplinary Center for Food Safety, worked with researchers to compile data about food insecurity in every one of Missouri’s counties. The result was the 2010 Missouri Hunger Atlas resource that offers comprehensive information about which areas are experiencing hunger across the state.
The face of hunger in Missouri turns out to be a multi-faceted one — Missouri’s rural populations, especially those counties in the southern part of the state, have the highest number of people struggling to put food on the table. And suburban areas, which are often considered to be more affluent, have a rising number of residents facing food security issues and a low participation rate in public programs aimed at helping people with the problem.
The Atlas’ wealth of comprehensive information is a treasure trove of information for policymakers.
“We hope this report will help public officials identify the best places to target their efforts, identify those agencies that are successful in their missions, and bring more awareness to this issue,” said Rikoon, a curators’ professor of rural sociology in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, in an interview with CAFNR news. “While this is something that is faced by every state in the nation, this atlas is the only tool in the country studying the problem at a local level throughout the state.”
To help jumpstart the policy discussion, Mizzou Advantage awarded the Hunger Atlas team a grant in spring 2011 to host a summit aimed at convening policymakers on campus to discuss the findings and trends in the Hunger Atlas and how information like it can be best used. In addition to shedding light on this important issue, the summit will also bring several prestigious researchers to campus and will highlight Mizzou’s interdisciplinary efforts into food security research, which involves professors from sociology, geography, Extension, the School of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the Truman School of Public Affairs, and the College of Human Environmental Science.
The summit, entitled Food Insecurity: Assessing Disparities, Consequences, and Policies, will be held on the MU campus Oct. 17-19. Researchers from institutions across the country, including Tufts University, Oregon State University, and the universities of Ohio, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Minnesota, will meet with policymakers and advocates from the USDA, the Food Research and Action Center and several more.
Chancellor Brady Deaton and Provost Foster will both give addresses at the summit, giving invitees a chance to learn more about MU and its prominent role in food and food security research.
Food for the Future