Hunger in Rural America

Cyndi’s Two Cents

Hunger in Rural America


I often write about the divergence between those who grow the food and those who consume the food. Many consumers, both urban and rural, have some concern, or at least interest, in the origin of that which they eat and what they feed their families.

They ask many questions: “Where was it grown? Were pesticides used? Is it organic? Does it contain GMO’s? Were antibiotics used? Is it hormone free? Was it kept in a cage? Was it fed grain? What does it cost?”

The answer to that final question is the deciding factor for most food shoppers. Preference and behavior are not the same. 

Before the start of the pandemic, food insecurity in our country was lower than it had been since they started measuring it in the 1990’s.  Those improvements were turned upside down with the reaction to COVID-19.

Food insecurity among those living in rural areas in 2019 was 12.5%. Feeding America projects that percentage may have risen to 14.4% in 2020.  The current projection is for 13.3% of the rural population to experience food insecurity this year. Sadly, 13 million kids in the United States are food insecure.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Although hunger and food insecurity are closely related, they are distinct concepts. Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level.

USDA’s Economic Research Services (ERS) tells us what most of us already know: An important indicator of the nation’s long-term well-being is poverty among children, since child poverty often has an impact that carries throughout a lifetime, particularly if the child lived in poverty at an early age.

In 2019, 13.3% of all people in rural areas lived below the poverty line compared to 10.0% of people in urban areas. It is such a dichotomy that people living in farm communities in this country face food insecurity and hunger at a higher percentage than those who live far from the fields where crops are grown.

It is difficult to fathom that 2.2 million households in rural America face hunger. But the truth is, many hard-working and capable men and women whose families have lived in your rural community for generations, are sliding deeper into the well of poverty. Some choose that life. Most, however, do not.

Families in your community will go to bed tonight without supper. Some parents will give up their own meager portion of food, so their children have something to eat.

Poverty has been around since the beginning of time and there will probably always be some level of destitution. It is my hope that when given the opportunity we all continue to invest in people in our rural communities. 

If there is one thing we have learned in the past year, it is that much in our lives is unpredictable. It could be you or me that needs a leg up some day.