Child hunger is increasing in rural areas, study finds

Robert Krogsdale says his six daughters have never missed dinner or gone hungry.

But look at what the Bates County, Mo., man and his wife, Reanna, have to do to make that happen: They use food stamps. They buy bread and fruit on sale. They rely on cheap staples like spaghetti. For Christmas, his parents give them packages of beef they use throughout the year.

And once a month, the Krogsdales drive 17 miles from their rural home into Butler, Mo. — sometimes in the family’s 12-passenger, 12 miles-per-gallon van — to load up on groceries at a food pantry.

“I make sure they have their plates and mouths full,” Krogsdale said of their six daughters, as well as two stepsons who are with the family on the weekends. “If it boils down to I don’t eat, it’s real simple.”

Often, when people think of the nation’s hungry kids, the image is of families in urban-core neighborhoods. In rural areas, where farmers harvest crops and ranchers raise livestock, kids do all right — or at least that was the perception of many.

But a study released today by Feeding America, a national hunger relief organization, shows that in every county in the nation, children live in food-insecure homes — where there’s sometimes not enough nutritious food or, at times, any food at all. Food-insecurity rates for children nationwide range from 7 percent in one North Dakota county to 50 percent in two Texas counties.

In Missouri, the study found 24.8 percent of children — almost one in four — living in homes where there’s sometimes not enough to eat. In Kansas, it was 22.6 percent.

For the 26 counties in and around Kansas City that the Harvesters food bank serves, child food-insecurity rates range from 18.5 percent to 29.2 percent. And some of the more rural counties are harder hit than their urban neighbors.

According to the first-ever Map the Meal Gap Child Food Insecurity study, which used numbers provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 2009, the food-insecurity rate for children is 28.9 percent in Carroll County, Mo., and 29.2 percent in Bates County.

“I’m amazed at how bad the problem is,” said Joyce Fitzpatrick, who has run the Community Food Pantry of Butler for 10 years and has watched demand “explode” the past two years.

She’s seen a 40 percent increase this year over last. For Bates County, she said, the main issue is jobs.

“A lot of our folks were traveling to the city to work, and some can’t afford to do that because of the gas prices,” she said. “Some of my volunteers keep saying to me, ‘I don’t know how you keep it together.’

“But you just do,” Fitzpatrick said. “Sometimes, though, you do wonder if you’re going to have something on the shelves.”

To read the complete article, visit www.kansascity.com.