Changing Times in Rural America: The Effects on Food Insecurity and Hunger
Whitley, Sarah Lynn
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Poverty and hunger are increasingly significant issues facing the nation, in large part due to an economic recession that began in 2007 and ended in 2009 (National Bureau of Economic Research), but the consequences of which still remain apparent (Bean 2011). One result of rising hunger rates is the increasing number of public assistance caseloads for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (Bean 2011), however, as Americans experience economic distress they are also looking to community programs for additional and needed services, such as food pantries which offer unprepared food items (Berner et al. 2008; Biggerstaff et al. 2002; Daponte et al. 2004; Molnar et al. 2001; Nnakwe 2008). Yet researchers have relatively little data on the hunger struggles of this extremely vulnerable population, especially in the rural setting and in the West where it has been suggested poverty and hunger rates are higher than in other regions (Farrigan 2010; Nord et al. 2009). Using qualitative interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, the current study tells a story about who the rural food insecure are in Perry County, Washington, and how they survive each month while experiencing significant changes in the rural environment. The study argues that the needs of pantry users vary across locations and between individuals using the same pantry. The study also tells an important story of how rural food insecure diets are affected by retail access changes. From a spatial inequality perspective, access changes have negatively affected rural residents' food security for a variety of reasons that seem unique to the rural setting. The changes taking place in Perry County are important to evaluate because they mirror changes happening across the country in the rural setting. At a time when hunger is hitting our nation at an alarming rate, it is important to have a better understanding of who faces food insecurity and the challenges those individuals and food programs endure combating hunger issues.