Rural Blacks underserved by Food Justice Movement

December 8th, 2013 – For years, statistics have shown that rural black communities are experiencing high rates of food insufficiency and insecurity. A common misconception is that these communities have access to an adequate amount of healthy food, perhaps because of their proximity to ample, fertile land. The reality is that blacks who don’t live in urban centers often have less access to the food they need. For example, Holmes County in Mississippi, with an 83% African American population, has the highest rate of food insecurity in the nation.* Most of the work for food justice, however, is concentrated in cities.

According to a 2008 study by The Southern Rural Development Center, not only are African American and Hispanic households more likely than Whites to be food insecure and hungry, but African Americans in rural communities are especially vulnerable. The study is based on data from the USDA and survey of the Alabama Black Belt. Since then, the severity of food insufficiency and insecurity in these communities has not diminished.

DC-based Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reports that 25.1% of black non-Hispanic households experienced food insecurity in 2011, nearly double the national average of 14.5%. Additionally, rural households experienced a rate of 15.4% that same year. The rate increased to 20% for rural households with children. Feeding America puts the current rate of food insecurity for rural households at 15.5%. From state to state, variances in the rates of food hardship are observed, with Southern states struggling particularly. In June, BET reported, “Of the 104 U.S. counties with a majority Black population, 92 percent of them have food insecurity. Most of these counties are concentrated in Southern states such as Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia and Louisiana.”

North Carolina is also recognized for having one of the nation’s highest rates of food insecurity. FRAC’s Food Hardship in America 2012, published in February of this year, ranks North Carolina as tenth in the nation for food hardship. The Greensboro-High Point region ranks second among metropolitan statistical areas experiencing significant food hardship. Asheville is also on the list, ranked ninth. As with other struggles, North Carolinians of color know all too well.

The statistics of food hardship for African Americans should not confound, as disproportionate economic hardship is well-documented and the correlation is clear. In rural communities, especially in the South, the need for organized effort to combat the threat of hunger is evident and critical. States like North Carolina, where people of color are fighting visibly for actualized equity on several fronts, require would-be and current champions of food justice to stand up.

*Feeding America, Key Findings of the Map the Meal Gap 2013

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