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Serving: MO
people line up for food pantry under US flag Spencer Platt/Getty Images
READY TO SERVE: This year has been difficult because of natural disasters and low commodity prices. Food pantries know farmers are hurting, and they want to help.

No empty plates, stomachs on the farm

Food pantries can help farmers facing hardships from flooding and low commodity prices.

By Scott Baker

When you’re sick, you take medicine. If you’re thirsty, you drink water. If your car breaks down, you may need to ask someone to help you fix it. These are natural reactions to challenges that face us every day.

What do you do if your family doesn’t have enough to eat?

Unfortunately, too many people in Missouri privately suffer with this challenge. A natural response would be to seek help at any of the food pantries and kitchens located in every Missouri county. But reasons such as pride and stigma are hurdles that some people can’t overcome.

Missouri farmers are facing a perfect storm in 2019. Massive flooding has affected planting and transporting of commodities. Ongoing trade wars have not only pummeled prices but are predicted to harm future markets.

The result is too many farmers facing substantial financial hardship through no fault of their own. Producers are left to deal with whatever cards are dealt by Mother Nature and Uncle Sam.

The good news is there is help available. The Feeding Missouri network consists of six large food banks that service more than 1,000 agencies across the state. The reason these pantries and kitchens exist is to help people who find themselves in a tight spot.

Reach out

The bad news is there is a very real stigma to seeking help. Nobody wants to go to a food pantry. It’s even worse if there’s a chance your neighbors will see you going there. “What will they think if I’m not even able to feed my own family?” You fear people may jump to conclusions or assume failure on your part.

That should never be the case, but that is especially true this year in rural Missouri.

Nobody needs to remind neighbors of the challenges everyone is facing. No one needs to point out the flooded field or the latest international headlines. It’s common knowledge among those who comprise Missouri’s No. 1 industry.

That understanding can be shared. Who can hold it against someone for getting a little help to feed their family in times like this? The forces conspiring against Missouri farmers right now are no indication of someone’s ability or business acumen. They are things totally out of our control.

Returning the favor

In recent years, Missouri agriculture groups have stepped up to partner with food banks and help feed the state. Missouri Farmers Care has fed thousands of children through the Drive to Feed Kids. Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance has provided thousands of meals through the Home Run Against Hunger Food Drive.

Now it’s your turn to receive. Let us help. Check out a mobile pantry in your area. Stop by a kitchen to see how it can offer some relief. You can find a pantry in your area at www.feedingmissouri.org.

Who knows, it’s possible you’ll see your neighbor there. And you won’t blame them if you do. Like you, they are reacting quite naturally.

Baker is the state director for Feeding Missouri. He writes from Columbia, Mo.

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