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Rural Hunger and Access to Healthy Food Models and Innovations

These stories feature model programs and successful rural projects that can serve as a source of ideas and provide lessons others have learned. Some of the projects or programs may no longer be active. Read about the criteria and evidence-base for programs included.

Effective Examples

Rural Restaurant Healthy Options Program
Updated/reviewed October 2017
  • Need: Obesity has become a widespread health epidemic in the United States, especially in rural areas. Due to small profit margins and the fear of customer loss, small owner-operated rural restaurants are hesitant to make health-conscious changes to their menus.
  • Intervention: The Healthy Options Program offered an economical and low-maintenance program for owner-operated restaurants in Iowa to increase awareness of already existing healthy menu options and substitutions.
  • Results: Restaurants received positive community feedback and experienced no financial loss. Customers noticed and appreciated the healthy option reminders, and ordering behavior was impacted in a healthy way.
Hidalgo Medical Services – Family Support Program
Updated/reviewed June 2017
  • Need: To reduce health disparities in two rural/frontier counties in southwest New Mexico.
  • Intervention: Community health workers work with clients to help them better manage their health and promote awareness of healthy lifestyle options in the community.
  • Results: Better health outcomes for patients.

Promising Examples

funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Youth4Health
Updated/reviewed September 2017
  • Need: To educate youth about obesity and healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Intervention: An educational program about healthy living was implemented in Lincoln and Claiborne Parishes in Louisiana for youth ages 9-18.
  • Results: Youth4Health program produced greater awareness and participation in healthier lifestyles by target youth and their families, as well as church congregations.

Other Project Examples

Be Well Barron County
Updated/reviewed November 2017
  • Need: A 2013 Barron County survey revealed 77% of adult males and 59% of adult females were overweight or obese, and that 23% of its students were obese.
  • Intervention: Be Well Barron County was created in association with the Medical College of Wisconsin to promote healthy eating and physical activity throughout this rural community in the areas of education, worksite wellness, healthcare initiatives, and community outreach.
  • Results: Success was due to academic engagement and community-wide participation by schools, worksites, and local restaurants.
Farm Fresh Rhode Island Food Hub
Updated/reviewed October 2017
  • Need: To strengthen the local food system by assisting farmers, supporting rural economies and promoting access to fresh food for underserved families.
  • Intervention: Financial partnership and targeted programs created to strengthen infrastructure and connect rural food producers to a larger, local market.
  • Results: Sales have increased for local farmers and food producers, and low-income family participants increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Rural Resources Diner’s Choice Program
Updated/reviewed October 2017
  • Need: Many older adults are lacking proper nutrition because of an inability to prepare food, lack of financial resources, depression due to social isolation, or general frailty associated with aging.
  • Intervention: The Diner's Choice meal program provides 12 coupons each month to older adults for local restaurants in two rural counties in Washington.
  • Results: Older adults in Pend Oreille and Stevens counties in Washington receive much-needed nutrition and social interaction, leading to healthier lives.
Putting Healthy Food on the Table
Updated/reviewed June 2017
  • Need: To reduce cancer rates in Appalachian Ohio by increasing fruit and vegetable intake.
  • Intervention: Ohio State University Extension-Vinton County established a community garden, container gardens, and classes to provide residents with fresh produce and healthy cooking/canning techniques.
  • Results: The number of gardeners has increased in Vinton County, providing residents with healthier food.
South Dakota Harvest of the Month Program
Updated/reviewed June 2017
  • Need: To encourage children to make healthy eating choices through learning and tasting.
  • Intervention: Brief, fun, and informative presentations for children on over 42 different fruits and vegetables.
  • Results: Participants are exposed to new foods and show more interest in healthy eating.
Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx)
Updated/reviewed April 2017
  • Need: A tangible way for providers to increase patients' access to affordable healthy food.
  • Intervention: With the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, providers prescribe vouchers for patients to redeem for fruits and vegetables at local healthy food retailers.
  • Results: Over 10,000 people have received FVRx prescriptions in rural and urban areas across 10 states.
Start Healthy, Start Now
Updated/reviewed April 2017
  • Need: Rural childcare providers have limited resources to learn about mental and physical health promotion and obesity prevention
  • Intervention: A free health promotion training program for rural childcare providers
  • Results: Rural childcare providers are better prepared to impact children's health and well-being.
Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative
Added November 2015
  • Need: Close to 70% of adults and 37% of children ages 4 and under in Northeast Iowa are overweight or obese.
  • Intervention: In rural Iowa, efforts are being made to support and promote access to locally-grown, healthy foods and active lifestyles, particularly in children, through the Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative.
  • Results: Over $70,000 of food grown by local farmers was purchased by Northeast Iowa schools during the 2014-15 school year. The Central Community School K-6 overweight or obesity rate decreased from 38% in 2010-2011 to 30.6% in 2014-15.

Last Updated: 11/21/2017