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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

Hidalgo Medical Services – Family Support Program
Updated/reviewed May 2021
  • Need: To reduce health disparities in two rural/frontier counties in southwest New Mexico.
  • Intervention: Community health workers worked 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.
Rural Restaurant Healthy Options Program
Updated/reviewed September 2020
  • Need: Obesity is a widespread epidemic in the United States, especially in rural areas. Due to small profit margins and fear of losing customers, small owner-operated rural restaurants hesitate 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 feedback and experienced no financial loss. Customers noticed and appreciated the healthy option reminders, and ordering behavior improved.

Promising Examples

funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Youth4Health
Updated/reviewed December 2019
  • 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

Rural Resources Diner's Choice Program
Updated/reviewed September 2021
  • Need: Many older adults are lacking proper nutrition, due to 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 three rural counties in Washington.
  • Results: Older adults in Ferry, Pend Oreille, and Stevens counties receive much-needed nutrition and social interaction, leading to healthier lives.
Lakewood Engage Food Access Initiatives
Added August 2021
  • Need: Lakewood, Minnesota is classified as a food desert, where many rural families face food insecurity and low availability of both nutritious and affordable provisions.
  • Intervention: A collection of programs address food insecurity and the dietary health of members of the community, from children and families to older adults, supplying them with locally-sourced fruits, vegetables, and meat.
  • Results: Lakewood Engage conducts around 30,000 food insecurity screenings each year. Fresh produce, meat, and other goods are distributed to roughly 130 families (around 500 individuals), 200 seniors, and 70 school-aged children annually.
Grow Your Health
Updated/reviewed May 2021
  • Need: To reduce rates of chronic disease 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 May 2021
  • Need: To encourage children to make healthy eating choices through learning and tasting.
  • Intervention: Brief, fun, and informative presentations and tastings for children on over 42 different fruits and vegetables.
  • Results: Participants are exposed to new foods and show more interest in healthy eating.
Lunch Express Summer Food Program
Updated/reviewed April 2021
  • Need: With school lunch programs inactive during summer months, rural children in Northeast Tennessee experienced food insecurity.
  • Intervention: Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee used repurposed school buses to expand meal delivery to rural children in remote areas of eight counties.
  • Results: During summer months, four converted school buses bring meals to nearly 350 children, traveling 11,000 miles in rural and remote areas. In toto, the organization reaches nearly 6,000 school children with food insecurity.
Healthy Places for Healthy People in Monett
Updated/reviewed December 2019
  • Need: Monett, Missouri's high tobacco use rates, lack of access to fresh foods, limited walkability and bikeability, and aging downtown infrastructure were all affecting residents' health.
  • Intervention: With planning assistance from Healthy Places for Healthy People, CoxHealth Monett led a coalition to revitalize downtown infrastructure and create opportunities for healthy living.
  • Results: Changes have helped to improve patient health, increase exercise opportunities, enhance downtown, and engage Monett's Hispanic population.
Farm Fresh Rhode Island
Updated/reviewed December 2018
  • Need: To strengthen the local food system by assisting farmers, supporting rural economies and promoting access to fresh food for underserved families and individuals receiving federal nutrition assistance.
  • Intervention: Financial partnership and targeted programs created to strengthen food system infrastructure and connect regional food producers to a larger market.
  • Results: Sales have increased for local farmers and food producers, and low-income participants have increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Last Updated: 9/3/2021