For families and individuals living in rural areas, accessing fresh, healthy food can be a challenge, regardless of income level. Many rural areas are food deserts—areas where access to fresh, affordable foods is extremely limited. If you have to drive over an hour to the nearest grocery store or two hours to the local farmers’ market, it’s a lot more likely that you’ll eat whatever you can find at the nearest convenience store or gas station.
Rates of poverty and food insecurity are also higher in rural communities than in metro areas. Rates of unemployment are higher, rates of education are lower, and services like healthcare, recreation, or help for seniors are limited. In addition, there is often no or limited public transportation in rural areas, making it even more difficult for individuals to access food and services outside a food desert.
So what can a food bank do to combat isolation, obesity, and poverty in rural areas? We can begin by understanding the unique challenges facing rural communities. We can bring our services directly to the communities that need them. And, most importantly, we can support the local economies, small businesses, and agencies that will help rural communities thrive.