Food pantries within Southeast Missouri expect an increase in food insecurity as Missouri pulls out of pandemic-era federal unemployment benefits. In a release last month, Governor Mike Parson announced the state would pull out of federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic. The federal aid added an extra $300 a week to Missouri’s usual unemployment benefits. Missouri officially opted out of the federal benefits June 12. Data from the Missouri Department of Labor revealed that over 45,000 state residents filed unemployment claims this April. Catholic Social Ministries Food Pantry in Cape Girardeau had a small increase in need in the last month, officials say. The churches’ food pantry typically served 620 families or 1,800 people on a monthly basis and officials say they noticed those numbers dip slightly during the pandemic, but now it’s starting to creep back up. St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry and the Catholic Social Ministry’s food pantry are two of several places the Southeast Missouri Food Bank distributes food to. The Southeast Missouri Food Bank services 143 charitable and disaster relief programs within its sixteen county coverage area. The food bank currently serves about ten percent more people in its coverage area than what it served before the pandemic, officials say. The area SEMO Food Bank serves has some of the highest rates of hunger in Missouri and one in every five children in Southeast Missouri live in homes without enough access to food. SEMO Food Bank also anticipates an increase in need every summer as children miss out on meals provided by schools. Feeding America awarded $70,000 to the food bank, which it will utilize to have twenty-six mobile food pantries across fifteen sites, many of them schools. Another grant from Enterprise Rent-a-Car will supply 20 to 30 pounds of groceries to children taking part in summer feeding sites in Mississippi, New Madrid and Pemiscot counties. To donate to the SEMO Food Bank or to find a food pantry nearby, visit www.semofoodbank.org.