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FERC rule to spark energy transmission building nationwide; Rudy Giuliani pleads not guilty to felony charges in AZ election interference case; new digital tool emerges to help MN students with FAFSA woes; WY governor to talk property tax shifts in a TeleTown Hall.

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Israel's Prime Minister calls the new ICC charges unfair. Trump's lawyers found more classified documents in Mar-a-Lago, months after an FBI's search. And a new report finds election deniers are advancing to the fall election.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

MO summit tackles rising child food insecurity as benefits expire

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Tuesday, April 2, 2024   

As COVID-era benefits near expiration, a recent Child Wellness Summit brought together nonprofits to tackle urgent child well-being and food-insecurity issues.

Missouri families grappling with inflation and high living costs are facing increased challenges, particularly in providing food, utilities and health care for children.

Jocelyn Fundoukos, director of communications for Operation Food Search, said that Missouri's child poverty rate doubled in 2022, leaving one in six children at risk of hunger. She said during the pandemic, her group was able to increase the amount of meals they served significantly. Unlike other states, Missouri has chosen not to retain certain pandemic benefits, such as flexible summer-meal distribution methods.

"It meant that we could serve more meals in a drive-through fashion. Now, it has returned to kids being required to eat the meals on site. So that obviously makes it trickier to get the food to as many kids as we could," she explained.

Data from Missouri Kids Count show last year, 33% of children in St. Louis lived in poverty, and 26% experienced food insecurity, meaning their families had no access to sufficient or quality food.

Fundoukos said getting enough healthy food can also be challenging because of such factors as "food deserts" in rural areas, lack of transportation, and others that prevent families from reaching available resources. She said it's important to understand that parts of the state may not have a local grocer, but perhaps just a convenience store with limited perishable items such as fresh produce.

"Kids may be getting something to put in their stomachs to sort of stave off the extreme hunger, but they're not getting the nutritious food they need to grow and thrive or to even be able to focus in school or sit still and pay attention," she continued.

She said summit participants emphasized the need for greater collaboration across different sectors to address complex issues holistically. St. Louis Area Diaper Bank, United 4 Children and Missouri Kids Win all participated in the dialogue, which was facilitated by Focus St. Louis.


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