Rural Hunger Fact Sheet

Rates of food insecurity among rural households are generally lower than urban households, but slightly higher than the national average. The irony is that many of these food-insecure households are in the very rural and farm communities whose productivity feeds the world and provides low-cost wholesome food for American consumers. 

Challenges facing rural areas differ from metro/urban areas in several significant ways [i]:

  • Employment is more concentrated in low-wage industries;
  • Unemployment and underemployment are greater;
  • Education levels are lower;
  • Work-support services, such as flexible and affordable child care and public transportation, are less available;
  • The rural marketplace offers less access to communication and transportation networks[ii]; and
  • Offers companies less access to activities that foster administration, research and development.

Rural Hunger Facts

  • 15 percent of rural households are food insecure, or an estimated 3.0 million households[iii].
  • 52 percent of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are in rural areas. Rural areas also account for 59 percent of counties with the highest rates of child food insecurity.[iv]
  • 7.5 million Americans (16%) living in rural areas live below the federal poverty line.[v]
  • Compared to all regions, the South continues to have the highest poverty rate among people in families living in rural areas (29%) [vi].
  • 52 percent of people in families with a single female head of household living in rural areas were poor in 2012, as compared to 35 percent in the suburbs.[vii]

[i] USDA. Economic Research Service. Leslie A. Whitener, R. Gibbs, and L. Kusmin. Rural Welfare Reform: Lessons Learned. Amber Waves. June 2003.

[ii] USDA. Economic Research Service. Robert Gibbs, L. Kusmin. Low-Skill Employment and the Changing Economy of Rural America. ERR-10. October 2005.

[iii] Coleman-Jensen, A., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2014). Household Food Security in the United States in 2013. Table 2. USDA ERS.

[iv] Gundersen, C., E. Engelhard, A. Satoh, & E. Waxman. Map the Meal Gap 2014: Food Insecurity Estimates at the County Level. Feeding America, 2014.

[v] DeNavas-Walt, C. &Proctor, B.D.. (2014). Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013. U.S. Census Bureau.

[vi] U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Survey. 2013 Annual Social and Economic Supplement. POV43: Region, Divison and Type of Residence—Poverty Status for People in Families With Related Children Under 18 by Family Structure: 2012. Below 100% of Poverty—All Races.

[vii] Ibid.