Nurturing Farm & Rural Communities Through Food Insecurity

Farmer serving diner on the field

Data shows rural areas are disproportionately impacted

Most of us thankfully don’t have to worry about food – we worry about what to eat, not how we’re going to feed ourselves and our families. But millions struggle with food insecurity every day, and studies are showing that rural America is impacted even more than other areas of the country. In fact, nine out of 10 food-insecure counties are rural, according to Feeding America, Bayer’s partner in the Here’s to the Farmer campaign along with country music star Luke Bryan.


In addition, they say that counties outside major metropolitan areas make up 63% of all U.S counties but represent 87% of counties with food-insecurity rates in the top 10%. In other words, counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are disproportionately rural – farmers are feeding the world but struggle to feed themselves.


It’s something Bryan understands well, growing up the son of a Georgia peanut farmer. Despite a rigorous touring and recording schedule, Bryan makes his Farm Tour and Here’s to the Farmer campaign a priority each year, as most people who live in food-insecure homes hail from his southern roots and in rural counties like the one he grew up in. (The South is home to about 82% of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity.)


While the USDA defines food insecurity as the lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life, contrary to popular belief, most food-insecure households fall above the line for federal poverty – $30,000 for a family of four. Added to that, 1 in 3 individuals who live in food-insecure homes may not be eligible for the nation’s largest food assistance program, SNAP.


"One of the biggest challenges in rural communities experiencing food insecurity is ensuring that the food banks have the resources they need to meet the needs of the community," Vice President of Health & Nutrition for Feeding America Gita Rampersad, JD, MHA said.


"Due to the high prevalence of food insecurity in rural communities, many food banks in rural areas have increased needs for resource investment and allocation while also needing to ensure that the people they serve can access the charitable food system. Many food banks serving rural communities depend on federal commodities, which have been in short supply. For people facing hunger living in rural areas, access to reliable transportation is an ongoing challenge." 


Whether it’s because they’re in a so-called “food desert” – an area without easy access to food retailers or fresh, affordable food – or because of their remote location and rising fuel prices making the long drive to locations with supermarkets unpalatable, farmers and rural communities face challenges urban areas don’t. This reduced access to healthy food makes intaking a balanced diet difficult, particularly when combined with the long hours farming families maintain.


With the increased challenges facing farm families, Bayer has stepped up its commitment to achieving Health for All and Hunger for None, renewing its dedication to preventing longer-term food shortages through innovation. We stand up to our responsibility to help growers produce greater yields with fewer inputs. It’s up to us to build and maintain food systems that stand up to today’s pressures and feed tomorrow’s growing world.


"To address these challenges, we need to continue to develop strategic and collaborative community partnerships and advocate for state-level policy to help support food banks in high-need, rural regions. Partnerships and policy support will help to build capacity and overcome barriers, including increasing resource allotment for food banks, addressing transportation challenges, and ensuring food distribution sites reach all people facing hunger," Rampersad said. 


"Food banks serving rural communities often go beyond food to provide additional social determinants of health supports, like healthcare access, affordable housing vouchers, education and workforce development programs. These models provide unique and creative approaches to solving the needs of families and build increased trust as respected community anchors in rural areas."


New data from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap shows that food insecurity varies at the county level from less than 1% in the District of Columbia to nearly 30% in Wolfe County, KY, with higher rates more concentrated among rural counties. The Pandemic has exacerbated this, with disruptions in supply chain, price increases and production shortfalls leading to empty shelves even when farmers do make it to the store. In fact, the FAO reports that the prevalence of food insecurity began increasing in 2020, for the first time since data collection began in 2014. 


Recognizing the ongoing need, Bayer is once again working with Feeding America to donate meals for hungry Americans. For every share of the #HerestotheFarmer hashtag through October 31, 2022, Bayer will help provide one meal through the Feeding America network, up to 1 million meals to communities in need. Families facing hunger report $44 more per month would meet their food needs, and just $1 helps provide meals secured by Feeding America on behalf of local member food banks. All roads point to our farm families and rural communities needing more help putting food on their own tables, even as they feed the world. Here’s the chance to make a difference in feeding America.