Child Food Insecurity

Child Food Insecurity measures the percentage of households with children under age 18 in the City of St. Louis that receive food stamp benefits

Equity Score
Indicator scores are represented on a scale from 1 to 100.
Disparity Ratio
Disparity direction: black-white
Households with children under 18 that receive SNAP

Black families are nearly six times as likely as white families to receive food stamps.

Source: American Community Survey 1-year PUMS

A score of 100 represents racial equity, meaning there are no racial disparities in outcomes between black and white populations. The lower the Equity Score, the greater the disparity.

For Child Food Insecurity, a score of 100 — a score reflecting racial equity — would mean black and white children are equally likely to live in households that receive food stamps, a sign of food insecurity. It is important to note that for this indicator, equity is not our only goal: we also want to improve outcomes for all.

More Information

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What does this indicator measure?

Child Food Insecurity measures the percentage of households with children under age 18 in the City of St. Louis that receive food stamp benefits, nationally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is a federal government program that helps low-income individuals buy food. In Missouri, it is administered by the Department of Social Services Family Support Division. In 2016, there were 27,697 households that received SNAP (20% of all households) in St. Louis. Of those households receiving SNAP, 12,255 had children under 18. Of all households with children under 18, 40% received SNAP. 

Child Food Insecurity Analysis

Households with children under 18 that received SNAP benefits in the past 12 months in St. Louis City.

  All Black White Disparity Ratio Equity Score
Households with children that receive SNAP 12,255 9,960 1,084 - -
Households with children 30,771 16,681 10,713 - -
Share of households with children that receive SNAP 39.8% 59.7% 10.1% 5.901 to 1 17

Data Note: PUMS data may differ slightly from estimates on American FactFinder due to differences in sampling. See PUMS technical documentation for more information. The number of sample cases is too small to report reliable estimates for additional racial groups.

What does this analysis mean?

Black families are nearly six times as likely as white families to receive food stamps. 59.7% of black households with children receive food stamps, compared to 10.1% of white households with children. 

If child food insecurity rates were equitable, there would be 8,275 fewer households with children receiving SNAP.

In 2016, 40% of families with children in St. Louis received food stamps. This is nearly double the rate in the United States, where 20% of families with children received food stamps. The Missouri Hunger Atlas estimates that 55.6% of all children under age 18 in St. Louis participate in food stamp programs.

Why does Child Food Insecurity matter?

Households that receive food assistance are low-income households that struggle with food insecurity, which has significant effects on child well-being. The Ferguson Commission report points out that food insecurity among babies and toddlers “correlates with increased susceptibility to infections, slowed cognitive development and physical growth, [and] increased susceptibility to chronic disease.” Among adolescents and young adults, food insecurity correlates with “reduced school performance, increased school dropout rates, and reduced productivity during adulthood.” In short, hunger affects not only health, but also child behavior in school.

For a household to be eligible for food stamps, its collective household income (before taxes) must be under 130% of the federal poverty level, and the household cannot have more than $2,250 in assets ($3,250 if elderly or disabled). These restrictions discourage savings and prevent homeownership. This puts families in the position of having to choose between food security and other types of financial security.

Income Limits for Food Stamp Benefits

Members of Household Maximum Monthly Household Income (Gross) Maximum Food Stamp Benefits
1 $1,307 $192
2 $1,760 $352
3 $2,213 $504
4 $2,665 $640


Which Calls to Action from the Ferguson Commission report are linked with this indicator?

One of the report’s priorities is ending childhood hunger because of the harmful effects hunger has on development and long-term success. The relevant calls to action include:

Questions for further investigation

  • Why is there a racial disparity in child food insecurity? 
  • What can St. Louis do to reduce racial disparities in child food insecurity?
  • What initiatives are currently underway to reduce racial disparities in child food insecurity?

How can I learn more about this issue?

The University of Missouri's Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security publishes the "Missouri Hunger Atlas" on an annual basis. To learn more about the intersection of race, income and food insecurity, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment has produced an infographic, which includes recommendations for the City of St. Louis and other relevant stakeholders.

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