Missouri Governor Mike Parson toured Ozarks Food Harvest Tuesday afternoon and spoke with staff about their efforts to help feed the hungry during the tumultuous season created by the coronavirus.
OFH staff along with members of the National Guard were packing backpacks for children on free or reduced lunch programs around the region as part of OFH’s Weekend Backpack Program, which provides nutritious breakfast, lunch, and dinner for families who otherwise would go without meals.
“It’s really important to realize there are 900,000 plus kids in Missouri and 465,000 of them are on free and reduced lunches,” said Governor Parson. “We still have to meet those demands weather you have school or you don’t…we still have to figure out ways to get services to them.”
Parson said the state will continue to have to lean on food banks like Ozarks Food Harvest to help meet the needs of those in the state impacted by COVID-19.
Parson was asked about masking mandates, and the citizens who are practicing “civil disobedience” by refusing to wear them even in locations where local government has required them.
“We’re encouraging everyone to wear a mask,” Parson said. “I have since day 1. The difference is encouraging them to do it and mandating them to do it are two different things. As governor, when you look at a state as diverse as Missouri, you always have to look at that…when it comes to a statewide mandate.”
However, Parson said he supports local officials who decide to require masking.
“I have always supported local control, I still support local control,” Parson said. “They mandated that, we support those Mayors, and we support those mandates. And I encourage people to wear masks to wear masks every day. And I think for the most part Missourians are doing a very good job with this.”
Parson did make a few direct comments toward those in the 18-22 age bracket in light of a recent spike in cases in the college age group, where many of those in that demographic feel like they won’t be impacted too badly if they contract the disease.
“It’s not about them being bulletproof, it’s about them spreading the virus,” Parson said. “That’s what we continue to tell students who are in colleges. They do, right now, think they’re bulletproof and they’re going to continue doing all the partying and things you do in college. The problem is when they leave that University and they go back home, they get around others…they get around family members. That’s a huge risk.”
“Look, I get the college scene,” Parson said. “But these are unusual circumstances. Those young adults, and I will call them adults, need to take responsibility for their actions.”