The fight against childhood hunger grows larger year by year.
That fact was one of many revealed Tuesday in the 2014 Kids Count Data Book.
A group called the Annie E. Casey Foundation produces the study each year from piles of national and state data to show how topics like economic well-being, education, family and community, and health affect children.
According to the report, 7,581 students in Buchanan County were enrolled in free or reduced lunch programs in 2013 — an increase of nearly 100 over the previous year. The book included data from as far back as 2006, with the number of children on free or reduced lunch rising each of the past eight years. Bordering counties showed a similar trend, with the number in Clinton and Platte counties increasing every year since 2006 and Andrew County rising since 2008.
Second Harvest Community Food Bank helps families battle hunger in a 19-county region across Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas.
Aaron Smullin, director of marketing for Second Harvest, said the food bank uses programs like Backpack Buddies to help feed hungry children during the school year. In the summer, the job becomes more difficult.
“When the final school bell rings, those programs end,” Mr. Smullin said. “Unfortunately, hunger does not.”
Mr. Smullin said 21.3 percent of children in Second Harvest’s service area face food insecurity. Programs like the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive in May and the Canned Film Festival each Tuesday at Regal Hollywood 10 help fill food pantry shelves throughout the region.
People interested in helping the pantry can get the most bang for their buck with monetary donations, according to Mr. Smullin. He said that while he does not wish to discourage people who donate food, Second Harvest can often buy items at a discounted rate.
“For the amount of money that may get you or I a few cans, (Second Harvest) may be able to go out and source a whole pallet of food,” Mr. Smullin said.