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Food Security Challenges Health of Rural People and Communities

If your rural community has a grocery store, you know what a convenience it is not to have to travel many miles every time you forget an ingredient for dinner. Grocery stores serve a critical function for rural communities because without access to healthy, affordable food more people are at risk for food insecurity.

The terms "food security" and "food insecurity" do not refer to bioterrorism or food safety. Rather, food security means that you know where your next meal will come from. Poverty is one of the main reasons why people are food insecure, and the lack of a place to buy food can also contribute significantly. Both of these phenomena are becoming increasingly common in rural areas.

One startling statistic that highlights the poverty of rural areas comes from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which reports that of the 250 poorest counties in the country, 224 were rural counties in 2005. Two of Nebraska's counties are among the 15 poorest counties in the nation.

In some respects rural residents are more prone to food insecurity than urban residents. Distance to a grocery store, low income levels, and the need for reliable transportation are critical to food access, and are amplified in rural communities because the population density is much lower. As rural populations decline, even small grocery stores find it hard to stay open. Residents who remain often must rely on convenience stores that stock expensive and unhealthy food options.

As we learn more about food access and the need for healthy food to confront the rise of diet-related diseases, an increasing number of creative solutions are emerging to meet the food security needs of rural communities. The best examples begin within the community and empower residents to identify their own problems and confront them with workable solutions.

The next time you shop for food, consider going to your local grocery store. Not only do these businesses supply more food options for rural residents, they also provide jobs and keep dollars circulating in your community. This makes both the residents and the community itself healthier.

Contact: Steph Larsen, 402.687.2103 x 1014 or stephl@cfra.org

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