Proposed 2007 Farm Bill's Domestic Food And Nutrition Programs Vital To Rural America
By Lori Wright, Media Relations
July 25, 2007
Rural Families Rely on Programs More Than Their Urban Neighbors
The national Food Stamp and School Lunch programs are vital to alleviating
food insecurity in rural America where residents rely on the programs
more than their urban neighbors, according to new research from the Carsey
Institute at UNH.
According to the new report, “Food Stamp and School Lunch Programs
Alleviate Food Insecurity in Rural America,” rural Americans disproportionately
rely on the Food Stamp Program to help purchase food for a healthy diet.
Although 16 percent of the nation’s population lived in a rural
area in 2006, 21 percent of Food Stamp beneficiaries lived in a rural
area. Overall, 10 percent of America’s rural population relied
on Food Stamps, compared with 7 percent of urban residents.
Congress is currently debating the 2007 Farm Bill. One provision in
the bill addresses domestic food and nutrition assistance and includes
reauthorization of the Food Stamp Program and the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Program, the latter of which is administered by each state’s National
School Lunch and Breakfast programs.
“The Food Stamp and School Lunch programs are vital parts of the
safety net in rural America, helping a large number of children and others
combat hunger and food insecurity. A Farm Bill that strengthens and expands
the Food Stamp and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Programs will help alleviate
food insecurity and hunger in rural America and contribute to healthier
lives,” according to Carsey Institute researchers Kristin Smith
and Sarah Savage.
Children make up a large proportion of rural Food Stamp recipients.
In 2006, children accounted for about one quarter of the rural population,
but they made up 40 percent of the rural population that depended on
Food Stamps. Fifty percent of the rural Food Stamp recipients were adults
age 18 to 59, and 10 percent were 60 and older.
In comparing rural Food Stamp recipients to their urban counterparts,
the researchers also found that rural Food Stamp recipients are:
- More likely to be non-Hispanic white (61 percent of rural versus 35
percent of urban residents).
- Less likely to be non-Hispanic black (33 percent versus 22
percent of rural recipients) or Hispanic (26 percent versus 9 percent).
- More likely to be married (34 percent versus 26 percent).
- More likely to live in the South (55 percent versus 39 percent).
Currently, the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program operates
in a limited number of states under the administration of each state’s
National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, and participating schools
are eager to continue the program. Expanding the program nationwide could
increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for millions of grade-school
children because the School Lunch Program reaches a large proportion
of American children of grade-school age (5 to 18 years old), according
to the researchers.
Nationally in 2006, 40.3 million (70 percent) American grade-school
children either purchased their lunch from the program or received it
for free or at a reduced price. Larger shares of rural (79 percent) than
urban children (68 percent) received a school lunch in 2006.
In rural areas, 31 percent of America’s rural grade-schoolers
received a free or reduced-price school lunch in 2006, compared with
25 percent of urban grade-schoolers. Based on their share of the population,
rural grade-school children are disproportionately in need of a free
or reduced-price lunch. Although just 15 percent of grade-school children
lived in rural areas in 2006, 19 percent received a free or reduced-price
In comparing rural school lunch recipients to their urban counterparts,
the researchers also found that:
- Rural grade-school children are more likely to receive free or reduced-price
school lunch than their urban counterparts, regardless of race or ethnic
- Nearly three of five rural non-Hispanic black grade-school
children received a free or reduced-price lunch, while fewer than one-half
of urban non-Hispanic black children did.
- Larger shares of Hispanic grade-school children (51 percent)
in rural areas received a free or reduced-price lunch than those living
in urban areas (46 percent).
- Rural grade-school children living in the South are more
likely to receive free or reduced-price lunch compared with rural children
living in the other regions (41 percent versus approximately 25 percent
in the other regions).
“Understanding the characteristics of children who participate
in the School Lunch Program provides insight to those children who would
likely benefit from a nationwide Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program,” the