A report released earlier this week from the coalition Missourians to End Poverty shows Callaway County's poverty level has risen to 15.1 percent.
With a population about 44,305 people in the county - according to the 2012 U.S. Census - about every three out of 20 people are at or below the poverty level.
That number seems low to Connie Cashion of Holts Summit. Cashion dedicates much of her time to serving the less fortunate by collecting items, storing them and giving them out when needed, and has been doing so for many years. Cashion said "numbers are numbers" and those collecting information for reports aren't able to see the faces behind the statistics.
More and more, Cashion said, she's observed couples in the area working two minimum wage part-time jobs. Most of these people, she said, had full-time jobs but their employers did not want to offer benefits, so those employers cut hours to 29 hours or less per week to avoid giving benefits.
She said the county's working poor are "strong backed and want to make it on their own," but are the ones who struggle the most. Cashion said these are the people whose income levels are just over the poverty level or qualifications for welfare programs - these are the people, she said, the statistics miss.
The 2013 poverty guidelines, according the the Missourians to End Poverty report, are:
•One-person household: income of $11,490 or less
•Two-person household: income of $15,510 or less
•Three-person household: income of $19,530 or less
•Four-person household: income of $23,550 or less
•Five-person household: income of $27,570 or less
•Six-person household: income of $31,590 or less
According to the 2012 census, 22.4 percent of Callaway County's population has an income of less than $25,000 per household.
Over the past five years, Anne Erbschloe, president of the Fulton Soup Kitchen, said she's noticed a steady increase of people coming in for meals. She saw a spike of 9,300 meals from 2010 to 2012. In 2010, the soup kitchen served 3,700 meals and in 2012 it served about 13,000 meals.
Of the people who come through the soup kitchen, Erbschloe said she's seen more people in subsidized housing than homeless. Erbschloe said she has observed the people on disability benefits or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, come to the soup kitchen because the welfare programs don't supply them with enough for a whole month.
Food stamp recipients can spend up to $1.30 per meal with what they're given through SNAP. A healthy meal, according to the USDA, costs between $1.80 and $2.48.
There are about 5,952 people in Callaway County participating monthly in the SNAP program, according to the University of Missouri's 2013 Hunger Atlas. Of those participants, 2,521 are under the age of 18.