During the 2019 legislative session, Rep. Tommie Pierson filed a bill asking for approval of a task force to study food security. This bill had a hearing, gained immediate support and was likely to pass, had COVID-19 not interrupted the session.

As MCE has previously pointed out, the pandemic has shone a very bright light on the agriculture issues that Missourians face every day. Such as on the fragility of the industrial food system and how it is broken down, the resiliency and safety provided by Missouri farmers, and how food workers and consumers came together in innovative ways to provide and support sustainable and equitable food systems. But we all know there were problems before the pandemic.

With plenty of data before us, the 2021 Legislative Session gave us the opportunity to draft a stronger version of Rep. Pierson’s legislation and to file it again, this time in both the House (HB 597) and Senate (SB 441).

We included more “folks at the table” who work in and around all aspects of food. Such as how we grow it, who grows it, who transports it, who sells it, who eats it and who goes hungry. We worked very closely with the sponsors Rep. Ian Mackey and Sen. Barbara Washington to craft an encompassing task force membership to take a hard look at food security.

The mission of the Missouri Food Security Task Force (MFSTF) would be to partner with the Missouri Department of Agriculture to determine the ability of individuals to access healthy food; to identify ways to connect resources; to identify how TIF’s and restrictive covenants create or prolong food deserts; and to evaluate online food retail and strategies to improve efficiencies in federal and state nutrition safety net programs. Then to report and present their findings every year until 2023 to the Governor and the General Assembly.

We are proud to say that we were able to pass SB 441 as an amendment on HB 432 in the final days of the 2021 session, with the Governor signing on July 14. While we know there is much to be done, it is our hope that the MFSTF starts a serious conversation around food security, food deserts, healthy sustainable food and food policy in general.

We will hold the task force accountable and continue to shine that light on this state’s economic contribution of $88 billion dollars (per Department of Agriculture) from the agriculture industry for them to do right and get it right for all Missourians.