The Missouri state legislature wrapped up the last day of regular session on Friday, May 14. While still grappling with challenges of the global pandemic, lawmakers truly agreed and finally passed sixty-nine bills that were delivered to Governor Parson’s desk for approval.
Throughout session Operation Food Search (OFS) advocated for legislation promoting consistent access to nutritious food for children and families across Missouri. Not only was important legislation addressing food insecurity passed, bills that would have made it more difficult to access essential nutrition assistance programs were also stopped.
This session brought many wins for children and families in Missouri. A number of important food security-related bills were added to an omnibus bill – House Bill 432. An omnibus bill is a single piece of legislation that packages together several measures or provisions into one bill. HB 432 included measures “related to the protection of vulnerable populations” and was passed unanimously through both chambers.
The following are the key provisions related to food security that were included in omnibus HB 432:
1. Statewide Food Security Task Force
The Missouri Department of Agriculture is responsible for the commission of a new Food Security Task Force. The task force will bring together stakeholders across sectors, backgrounds, and areas of the state to evaluate food security in Missouri and put forth policy recommendations. This is a great opportunity to build awareness, improve collaborations, lead change and make an impact on food security in Missouri.
2. WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program
WIC participants were added to those who qualify for the Missouri Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which provides a supplemental voucher to purchase fresh produce at qualifying farmers’ markets. This aims to expand options for and help meet the dietary needs of pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children under the age of five, while increasing demand for Missouri-grown produce and farmers’ markets. It’s a win-win for Missouri’s WIC participants and farmers.
3. Afterschool Meals
Requirements for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program were modified to meet federal guidelines of health and safety standards. Previously, Afterschool Meal sites in Missouri were required to hold childcare licensure in order to serve meals, however, not all sites providing afterschool activities for children are childcare centers. Moving forward, Missouri’s Afterschool Meal sites will no longer be required to hold additional licensure, which will expand the ability for community hubs to participate in the program. Currently, only 1 in 10 students who eat free and reduced-price lunch participate in the Afterschool Meal Program, so our hope is that this legislation will ensure more children have access to these nutritious meals.
4. USDA “Farm to Food Bank” Project
The Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) is now required to submit a state plan for a “Farm to Food Bank Project”. The Farm to Food Bank Project is a federal program aimed to increase the availability and access of local produce and proteins to families experiencing food insecurity. These projects can support gleaning initiatives like the one OFS runs, that harvest quality food that would otherwise go to waste from local farms and deliver it to food banks across the state.
5. SNAP Farmer’s Market Pilot Program
The sunset on the SNAP farmers’ market pilot program was extended six years. The program allows the use of SNAP EBT at Missouri farmers’ markets, as well as a capped dollar-for-dollar match on money spent at the markets. The intent of this program is to support the access and ability to afford fresh food and promotes purchases from local growers. Unfortunately, the dollar-for-dollar match was not included in the budget passed by the General Assembly this session.
Another important bill that passed this session is Senate Bill 153, which creates a Missouri Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), otherwise known as the “Missouri Working Families Tax Credit”. The Missouri Budget Project estimates the credit will benefit 250,000 working families with tax relief. Research shows the EITC reduces poverty by supplementing the earnings of workers in low-wage jobs and thereby reducing food insecurity for the household.
WHAT DIDN’T PASS
A noteworthy disappointment from this session was the refusal from Missouri legislators to fund the expansion of Medicaid that voters approved by ballot initiative in 2020. Medicaid expansion has been adopted by 37 other states. It helps close the coverage gap for those who earn more than the current Medicaid income threshold but still cannot afford health insurance on their own. This issue is currently being taken up in court.
Sometimes it’s a good thing when a bill doesn’t pass, however, as was the case with HB 217. OFS advocated against HB 217, which proposed an increase to already existing penalties for nonexempt adults who are unable to meet (or report meeting) the work requirements set for SNAP. The bill attempted to increase sanctions three times what they are currently and even permanently take away a family’s SNAP eligibility. SNAP is essential to helping low-income families put food on the table, and OFS is committed to ensuring all Missouri children and their families have access to the food resources they need to live a happy, healthy life.
Session is over, but the work continues! Throughout the interim OFS will be working with legislators, stakeholders, state agencies and fellow advocates to ensure what was passed is brought to fruition. The successful implementation of the Food Security Task Force is a top priority in the upcoming months. Starting in the fall, we will also begin meeting with legislators to discuss advocacy agendas for the 2022 legislative session.
For more updates on our work, follow us on Twitter @OFSFoodAdvocate and keep your eye out for our next policy and advocacy e-Newsletter.
Need a quick refresher about how a bill becomes a law? Check out Missouri Foundation for Health’s helpful diagram.