Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Food banks bring mobile pantries to rural food deserts

Food pantries and soup kitchens tend to be in urban areas, but rural areas need help too: Though rural counties make up 63 percent of the U.S., they make up 79 percent of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity, according to food bank network Feeding America. "Hunger has decreased somewhat in urban settings since the Great Recession, but it remains stubborn in rural areas." Elaine Povich reports for Stateline, a news service for the Pew Charitable Trusts. "Rural poverty levels have exceeded urban poverty for decades, according to a 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture report. In the South, nearly 22 percent of residents who don’t live in metropolitan areas are in poor households. Over 15 percent of rural counties are 'persistently poor,' compared with just 4 percent of urban counties."

Even when rural residents have Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, getting access to affordable food -- especially fresh food -- can be difficult. That's why some food banks are bringing their services to rural areas with mobile food pantries.

The West Alabama Food Bank, for example, recently received a $47,150 state grant to retrofit a 28-foot trailer to bring fresh, frozen and refrigerated foods to residents in nine rural counties near the Mississippi border. WAFB Executive Director Jean Rykaczewski said that people in their service area often lack transportation to get to grocery stores and instead have to go to convenience stores with inflated prices and poor selection. The new mobile food market will give people more control over what they eat and enable them to get food for free or below cost, she told Povich.

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