Sen. Roy Blunt and his family were joined by state elected officials, city officials and community leaders Tuesday as they visited The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.

He received updates on the food bank’s ongoing programs and heard concerns from community leaders before helping load boxes designated for veterans in need.

“The food banks serve such a great purpose,” Blunt said, emphasizing the efficiency at which food banks operate. “They have some federal support from some of the (agriculture) programs, but mostly they’re locally supported.”

Lindsay Lopez, president and CEO of the food bank, led the meeting and outlined the progress the organization had made against food insecurity in Missouri in 2019.

That included the bank’s mobile pantry program, where non-perishable goods are distributed in rural communities where no brick-and-mortar pantries exist, and a pair of programs designed to feed children both during the school year and during the summer.

Fifteen percent of Missourians are affected by food insecurity, according to previous Missourian reporting. That is higher than what the U.S Department of Agriculture reported as the national average, with 11.1% of U.S. household affected by food insecurity in 2018.

During any given month, Lopez said, the bank serves 100,000 people, in 32 Missouri counties.

Lopez said that 2019 saw a major victory for the organization: of the food they distributed, 60% are considered “foods to encourage,” such as fresh produce and healthy proteins like eggs.

“We’re very proud of that,” Lopez said during the meeting.

“I was frankly surprised today, when Lindsay said 60% of the food that they now send out wouldn’t be considered in the perishable food category,” Blunt said. “It means the food bank has to be even more efficient and generally have more volunteers available all the time.”

Another victory was Lopez’s belief that the efforts of the food bank are working. She said that currently, one in six Missouri households is affected by food insecurity. In 2020, they expect that number to decrease.

“It means the work we are doing is having an impact,” Lopez said.

At the end of the meeting, Blunt took questions from community leaders at the meeting about concerns they may have. Those included two factors that were attributed as a partial cause of food insecurity: a lack of affordable housing that causes some to spend more money on rent, leaving less to be spent on food, and the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy, which denies federal benefits to detained persons awaiting trial and still presumed innocent.

After the meeting, Blunt and the other elected representatives moved to the assembly line to pack up boxes in the food bank’s VIP Veteran Pack Program. The program provides ready-to-eat entrees, canned fruit and vegetables and toiletries for veterans living below the poverty line.

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