How hunger disproportionately impacts rural communities


Some 44 million Americans are struggling with hunger, including 250,000 in New Mexico, and a nationwide food bank network wants Congress to help.

Vince Hall, chief government relations officer for Feeding America, said money for the Emergency Food Assistance Program in the Farm Bill should be doubled from $450 million to $900 million. He added it's likely many people have relationships with someone struggling with hunger, whether they know it or not.

"Sixty-three percent of the counties in the United States are rural, but 87% of counties that are experiencing the highest rates of food insecurity are rural -- so the problem is definitely more severe," Hall explained.

He said the demand for food is higher now than at the peak of the pandemic and shows no sign of abating, while the cost of fuel, labor and refrigeration for food banks has risen. After failing to reach consensus last year, Congress punted reauthorization of the Farm Bill to 2024 -- extending the current bill through the end of September.

Hall noted that 30% of meals distributed by New Mexico's Roadrunner Food Bank come through the Emergency Food Assistance Program, making its role critical in addressing the state's food insecurity.

"Almost 12% of households are struggling with food insecurity, and in New Mexico 20% -- literally one in five children in New Mexico -- are struggling with food insecurity on a regular basis," Hall continued.

He said hunger is disproportionate in rural communities because wages are generally lower, grocery stores are farther away and reliable transportation can be a challenge.

Feeding America is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks. Hall worries that without help from lawmakers, food banks will run out of food, and some possibly would be forced to close permanently.

Feeding America, food insecurity in New Mexico