Food Insecurity in New Madrid County

Imagine 2,310 adults standing in a line. Now add another 1,030 or so children. Those 3,340 people represent food insecurity in New Madrid County.

With a county population of only 17,810, New Madrid County has a 19 percent overall food-insecurity rate and a 24.6 percent child food-insecurity rate. This compares to Missouri’s rate of 13 percent overall food insecurity and 15 percent child food insecurity rate. (Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, 2018)

Southeast Missouri Food Bank, along with its volunteers and donors, works to feed the estimated 59,620 hungry people in the 16 counties it covers. Seven of its 140 member agencies are in New Madrid County, and many people rely on them to feed themselves and their families.

One of those is Celeste from New Madrid.

Celeste wearing her face mask while at a food pantry in New Madrid.

Celeste has one daughter and four foster in her home and relies on the New Madrid Food Pantry to stretch her limited income.

“[The food assistance] is really appreciated. Whatever we can do to help the kids and make sure they have enough to eat, that’s really the important thing,” Celeste said.

Ashley, also from New Madrid, is in a similar situation. She has four children and will cut back on her own meals so that her children will have more.

Ashley, from New Madrid, visiting a food pantry.

“Sometimes you are taking it day by day trying to figure out how to make a meal and sometimes you don’t have a meal,” she said. 

She’s incredibly grateful for the food she receives through the food bank, its partners, donors and volunteers.

“I appreciate what everyone is doing and helping families in need,” Ashley said. “It’s a hard time right now with COVID going on.”

People receiving food often also volunteer to help others. Donnie from Parma is an example of that.

Donnie, posing for a photo outside of New Madrid Food Pantry.

An Army Veteran, he visits food pantries to make up for what his disability check can’t cover. To pay it forward, he helps distribute food at local churches when they host mobile pantries. He is happy to give back and receive the blessing of food.

“Everyone is doing a good job. Keep up the good work. Anything helps,” Donnie said.

Southeast Missouri already has high rates of food insecurity, but the pandemic has made a dire situation even worse, leaving many people without a job.

Joe and Kim are between jobs because of COVID-19 and like many of the newly in need are first-time recipients of food at New Madrid Food Pantry.

Joe and Kim (not pictured) having food loaded into their vehicle.

“It makes a good difference in everyone’s life,” Kim said while the food was loaded in the back of their vehicle.


“We appreciate it, and every little thing helps,” Joe said.

At Southeast Missouri Food Bank we know economic recovery will be a marathon, not a spring. With the help of our partners, donors and volunteers we will continue to provide food to people like Celeste, Ashley, Donnie, Joe and Kim, and the other 3,300 hungry people in New Madrid County. If you’d like to help, donate at or call us at 573-471-1818.

Other Stories

The Stigma of Visiting Food Pantries

Mother Gloria and daughter Summer know the stigma that can accompany visiting a pantry. But when it comes to feeding your family, you have to swallow your pride. “At first, I was like, I don’t need to go there. We’re fine. We’ll make it,” Gloria said recalling her first pantry visit. “I’ve learned since that…
Read More

Donate, Don’t Throw Away

Tyler Kemplin got into personal training and nutrition after his mother and a close friend both passedaway due to health issues. He posted some photos of his meal prepping on social media, and peoplebegan asking about purchasing meals from him. In an instant, Pulse Fitness & Nutrition in CapeGirardeau was formed. “I wanted to help…
Read More

When SSI Isn’t Enough

With as much as Linda paid in to Social Security over her lifetime, she thought she would receive back more in benefits when she reached retirement. “I get Social Security but it’s small, and I have a hard time getting by. I’m low-income, and I need help with food,” she said, adding that she visits…
Read More

Ruth & Kaira

The return to school means buying school supplies and clothing, expenses that can be hard for families to manage – especially if they have multiple children. Ruth, from Advance, understands that challenge all too well as she is raising three grandchildren by herself. Preparing them for returning to school put a dent in Ruth’s wallet…
Read More

Joyce’s Story

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc, many people are struggling more than ever to make ends meet and some are forced to choose between eating or paying bills. On a bright Saturday morning at Bread Shed, a food pantry in Poplar Bluff, more than 200 people wait patiently to get food provided through Southeast Missouri…
Read More

JoAnn’s Story

  Rising food costs due to COVID-19 are especially hard for people like JoAnn, who lives on a fixed income. The Ste. Genevieve woman receives Social Security and SNAP (food stamp) benefits, but it’s not enough for her and her veteran roommate to live on.  “Hamburger is more than $6 (a pound). Pork steaks are more than $6. I don’t know how…
Read More