Rural Missouri - April 2012 - (Page 5)

Hart to Heart Removing the barriers herever I go in rural Missouri these days, I hear from people who desperately want to connect to the Information Superhighway but can’t. In many parts of Missouri, rural telecom companies have done an excellent job of bringing high-speed Internet service to the countryside. But there are still many places in rural Missouri where Internet service is slow, unreliable or non-existent. My heart goes out to these folks because it reminds me in many ways of the situation when cities had electricity, but rural areas did not. There are rural kids whose studies suffer because they don’t have Internet access. There are small businesses that could greatly benefit from having a high-speed connection to the global economy. I wish there was a way to wave a magic wand and extend service to these people. But the next best thing would be to remove any obstacles that could get in the way of high-speed Internet for all. That’s why I am so excited about legislation that is moving through W by Barry Hart the Missouri Capitol. House Bill 1361, sponsored by Rep. Darrell Pollock of Lebanon, and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 891, introduced by Sen. Brad Lager of Savannah, will go a long way toward speeding up the deployment of high-speed Internet in these unserved areas. This new legislation provides some necessary clarification to existing state law that will ease the expansion of broadband to rural areas. It provides a framework for public safety, competition between broadband service providers and other necessary changes. As we near publication of this issue, this legislation was moving swiftly through the leg- islative process. It enjoys the support of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s three largest telecommunications providers and numerous cable television systems. Electric cooperatives already have power lines in place to homes across the state. In many cases, they have built fiber optic technology in order to communicate with substations and other parts of the electricity grid. It makes sense that this infrastructure should be used to extend broadband into the countryside as it has been done at CoMo, Ralls County and United electric co-ops. There are rumors that additional federal “Like electricity, access to high-speed Internet service in this Digital Age is a requirement, not a luxury.” Barry Hart funds for broadband expansion could be available as soon as organizations return unspent stimulus funds. The legislation introduced by Rep. Pollock and Sen. Lager will ensure Missouri is positioned to move forward if the rumors become reality. Modern broadband Internet service has become a necessity in this digital age. It can improve educational opportunities, serve as a foundation for economic growth, aid in job creation, improve global competitiveness and lead to a better way of life. If you believe as I do that all Americans should enjoy the full benefits of high-speed Internet service, please help speed this measure toward passage by contacting your legislators. Ask them to vote in favor of House Bill 1361 and Senate Bill 891. Like electricity, access to highspeed Internet service in this Digital Age is a requirement, not a luxury. Rural people cannot continue to be second-class citizens of the online community if they hope to prosper. With your support, we can bring the goal of high-speed Internet access for all a big step closer to reality. Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Guest Column Hunger hits home hen you hear the word “hunger,” where does your mind go? If you are like most Americans, you probably recall images we’ve all seen from Third-World countries. Maybe you think of a certain pocket of poverty you’ve witnessed in this country: a rundown inner-city neighborhood or a particularly poor rural community in the South. Does the scene in your mental picture take place in Missouri? It should. Missouri has a real hunger problem. Right here in the middle of the world’s breadbasket, we struggle to feed our own people. In fact, one in eight Missourians seeks emergency food assistance every year. These people are your neighbors, your fellow parishioners and your co-workers. Don’t believe me? More than 40 percent of the people who need help from Missouri’s food pantries and kitchens come from households with at least one employed adult. Want more proof? Pay a visit to your local food pantry and ask the W by Scott Baker volunteer coordinators about the trends they have seen in recent years. You’re likely to hear stories about people coming in who used to drop off a check but now need a box of food. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Missouri has the seventh-highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, which is the bureaucratic way of describing hunger these days. Our rate of growth has surpassed the national average by more than 5 percent. Missouri has the fifthhighest rate of childhood hunger in the nation. These kinds of numbers point to a problem that is far greater than anything isolated to a particular part of the state or only certain types of communities. When you examine hunger in Missouri, you’ll see that the problem is at least as bad in rural Missouri as it is in the large cities. The biggest obstacle is that Missourians simply are not aware that the problem exists. As a lifelong Missourian, I have seen many examples of us rallying around our neighbors when there was a difficulty or need. We don’t shy away from “Right here in the middle of the world’s breadbasket, we struggle to feed our own people.” Scott Baker challenges. We tackle them head on and do what needs to be done. We’ve seen it as recently as last year, when so many Missourians were impacted by ravaging floods and devastating tornadoes. Missourians stepped up in unprecedented ways to help our neighbors because that is what we do. I am convinced we can do it again. The good news is, given the natural resources of Missouri and the tenacity and pride of her people, the solution to hunger is here, too. But you can’t sit this one out, not given the size and scope of the problem. Educate yourself and then educate your neighbors and community leaders. Give food or money, if you can. We can end hunger in Missouri, but it’s going to take that same noble, no-nonsense approach for which Missourians are famous. The first step is to recognize it in our own backyard. Baker is state director of the Missouri Food Bank Association, a coalition of the six Missouri Food Banks working to provide hunger relief to every county in the state, along with the City of St. Louis. You can learn how to help out at www. APRIL 2012 5

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - April 2012

Rural Missouri - April 2012
Table of Contents
Mule memories
Squandered opportunity
Something to gobble about
Best of Rural Missouri
Hearth and Home
The hardest fun ever
News Briefs
Around Missouri
Small-town saviors

Rural Missouri - April 2012