Rates of food insecurity among rural households is generally lower than urban households, but slightly higher than the national average. The irony is that many of these food-insecure households are in the very rural and farm communities whose productivity feeds the world and provides low-cost wholesome food for American consumers. 

Challenges facing rural areas differ from metro/urban areas in several significant ways [i] :

  • Employment is more concentrated in low-wage industries;
  • Unemployment and underemployment are greater;
  • Education levels are lower;
  • Work-support services, such as flexible and affordable child care and public transportation, are less available;
  • The rural marketplace offers less access to communication and transportation networks [ii] ; and
  • Offers companies less access to activities that foster administration, research and development.

Rural Hunger Facts

  • 15.5% of rural households are food insecure, an estimated 3.1 million households [iii] .
  • 8.5 million Americans (17.7%) living in rural areas live below the federal poverty line. [iv]
  • Compared to all regions, the South continues to have the highest poverty rate among people in families living in rural areas (28.5%). [v] 
  • 52.3% of people in families with a single female head of household living in rural areas were poor in 2012, as compared to 34.6% in the suburbs. [vi]


[i] USDA. Economic Research Service. Leslie A. Whitener, R. Gibbs, and L. Kusmin. Rural Welfare Reform: Lessons Learned. Amber Waves. June 2003.

[ii] USDA. Economic Research Service. Robert Gibbs, L. Kusmin. Low-Skill Employment and the Changing Economy of Rural America. ERR-10. October 2005.

[iii] Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, M., & Singh, A. (2013). Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. Table 2. USDA ERS.

[iv] DeNavas-Walt, C., Proctor, B.D. & Smith, J.C. (2013). Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012. U.S. Census Bureau.

[v] U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Survey. 2013 Annual Social and Economic Supplement. POV43: Region, Divison and Type of Residence—Poverty Status for People in Families With Related Children Under 18 by Family Structure: 2011. Below 100% of Poverty—All Races.

[vi] Ibid.