Hunger Grows in Rural America

Chenier Farms of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana
September 14, 2019
by Jessica Schoen

When we think about the issue of hunger, we often imagine an urban setting. But the truth is that hunger is common, and sometimes even more so, in rural areas or small towns – including some of the very communities where many of America’s crops are grown.

Before the pandemic, three-quarters of the counties in the U.S. with the highest reported rates of hunger were in rural areas. Now, while more people are struggling with hunger in every county, rural communities are being hit even harder.

Why do so many people that live in rural neighborhoods often face hunger at higher rates? There are 3 unique challenges that living in rural or farm communities presents: 

  1. Food Deserts. Remote or hard-to-reach towns, like in rural Alaska, can be hours away from their nearest grocery store or food bank. When communities rely solely on one grocery store for their pantry staples and fresh foods, if that store closes, families are faced with the risk of not having access to food. 
  2. Higher rates of unemployment or underemployment. Many higher-paying jobs are in larger cities. Long commutes and a lack of reliable transportation, leave many families left to look for available work within their own communities. In communities with fewer jobs and lower high school completion rates, there are higher rates of unemployment or underemployment. During COVID, local small businesses in rural areas may have been forced to close, further adding to unemployment challenges.
  3. Budgets stretched to the limit. The reasons above along with rising food prices, make it increasingly challenging for many working families to afford the groceries they need to feed themselves and their loved ones.

We are committed to helping everybody facing hunger in the United States. While there are challenges to serving our rural neighbors in need, there are also many ways that food banks, pantries, and food assistance programs continue their important work. Most food banks in the Feeding America network offer a mobile food pantry that brings food to isolated, hard-to-reach areas where adults and children can take home what they need. Many food banks also offer food delivery programs that ship a week’s worth of food to families in need. Since the coronavirus pandemic, food banks have further increased programs like these to ensure everyone has the food they need.