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University of Missouri

Some is Good, More is Better

Mizzou helps low-income Missourians eat more healthfully.

Bradford Farm

From left, Leslie Touzeau, Jessica Hill and Katy Beaven tend the soil at MU’s Bradford Farm. Some of the farm’s produce goes to local food pantries. Photo by Rob Hill.

A summer without crisp lettuce or juicy tomatoes might seem foreign to some Midwesterners. But for low-income Missourians who use food pantries around the state, fresh vegetables are a rare treat.

Missouri has a 9 percent diabetes rate, whereas food pantry users have a 22 percent rate,” says Sandy Rikoon, Curators Professor of Rural Sociology. “The cheapest food is usually the highest-calorie food, but it’s often not the most nutritious.”

Multiple Mizzou groups are helping change that. The Food Pantry Nutrition Project, with funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health, will team with eight Missouri food pantries in five years to increase the availability of healthful provisions for pantry clients. The project is affiliated with the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural ResourcesInterdisciplinary Center for Food Security.

The first two pantries are in Shelbina and St. James, where project staff are distributing seeds, educating novice gardeners and helping to establish wellness groups to address specific community nutrition needs.

Another group, Tigers for Community Agriculture (TCA), partners with Bradford Research Farm to grow vegetables for Tiger Pantry, a student-run food pantry. TCA gives students hands-on production experience, while Tiger Pantry feeds food-insecure Mizzou students.

I’m working at a local level on home and community gardens, and the students at Bradford Farm are working on growing food for donation,” says Bill McKelvey, MS ’07, Food Pantry Nutrition Project director. “It’s all part of a broader effort.”