(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) St. Joseph resembling a ghost town this week as winter storms have shut down schools and businesses out of an abundance of caution for drivers, but winter closures have widespread impacts on food access.
“Yeah, I think inclement weather is a scary time for a lot of individuals,” said Blake Haynes, Second Harvest Food Bank Communications Coordinator.
The past few days brought snow, ice and hunger.
For those willing to wait in mile long lines, wrapping around neighborhoods for food- snow days mean hungry days.
“I know it is probably difficult, but at this time, we feel safety is more important,” said Brian Tarr, Director of Nutrition Services for the St. Joseph School District.
The St. Joseph School District cancelled in-person classes Monday-Wednesday due to icy road conditions. Meaning for all 8,000 students in the district, most of which are on free or reduced lunch, no school means no breakfast or lunch for three consecutive days.
“With the bad weather, we don’t bring staff in. We don’t want to see the public on the roads having accidents and it gives our custodial and maintenance staff an opportunity to clear sidewalks, parking lots and get things ready to go. I would hate to see someone get in an accident,” said Tarr.
Virtual Academy students will be able to take home those missed meals from the last three postponed meal pick ups once school doors open back up.
The SJSD wasn't the only one who turned off the food tap due to inclement weather. The winter storms forced Second Harvest Food Bank's hand, causing the local food bank to cancel and delay several distribution events throughout its 19 counties.
“I could obviously understand the increased need. It’s almost like the holiday season with the stress level there as well,” said Haynes.
Haynes said the delays and closures are a matter of public safety,“Just taking every precaution and keeping everyone safe, but then also looking into that food insecurity you’re talking about. Making sure that everyone is getting their needs and supplements met. I mean, that’s our mission right?”
Agencies and schools play a balancing act with inclement weather, having to weigh safety versus hunger.
With Buchanan county facing a projected 19.2% food insecurity rate from Feeding America's "Map the Meal Gap," cancellations matter.
“I know it makes it tough," said Tarr.
Second Harvest said if someone is struggling to put food on the table during winter weather, reach out to their partner agencies for additional assistance.