Nationally, 15 percent of rural Americans face food insecurity, and 6.9 million rural residents live below the poverty line. 13 percent of Arizona’s rural population is food insecure. Rural people who face food insecurity and live below the poverty line have decreased access to health care, are more likely to have mental health problems, and are less likely to exercise.
Along with food insecurity, many rural Arizonans lack immediate access to grocery stores, farm stands, and farmers markets. Rural communities in Arizona can be as far as 10 miles away or more from the nearest grocery store. These communities often rely on convenience stores for food and other basic necessities. This can be harmful because many of these stores lack nutritious food options, and their products are usually more expensive than grocery stores.
Hunger is linked to several other hardships rural Americans face. Rural communities often lack diverse transportation options, unemployment and underemployment are high, and education levels are lower.
Programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Double Up Food Bucks Arizona help rural communities by providing much needed food. However, these programs do not reach everyone who needs them. Many rural communities lack information on the programs and lack access to apply for them.
Location plays a large role in hunger and health. Through legislation and increased programming, these pertinent resources can reach those who need them most. If you or someone you know needs assistance, organizations like RCAC and the USDA can help. Those who grow our food should not go hungry.