Obstacles to Food Access in Rural Minnesota
Transportation, access to grocery stores and stigma – these three things are significant barriers that our hunger neighbors living in rural communities experience.
Second Harvest Heartland serves 59 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Agency Relations Account Specialist, Char Graff supports 22 rural counties in Southwestern Minnesota.
In these communities the face of hunger might look similar to urban and suburban areas, but the barriers to food access are a little different. During a recent interview with WCCO Radio, as part of the Let’s Kick Hunger Day Radiothon, Char shared more about these barriers and how Second Harvest Heartland is working with partners to ensure our neighbors have the food they need to thrive.
“Transportation is a big barrier out there, if you don’t have a car, there’s no public transportation so you have to have a car and it has to be in good working order,” said Char.
Another barrier, is the lack of access to grocery stores. In January, Star Tribune ran an article talking about the loss of grocery stores in rural Minnesota versus the building boom that is happening in the metro area.
The last barrier that Char often sees is overcoming the stigma associated with asking for help in a community where you know everyone.
“If you’re going to a food shelf out in rural Minnesota there’s a lot of stigma around that, stigma and pride. Everyone knows everyone and you don’t want to be seen as someone getting a helping hand,” said Char.
The good news is we have a lot of partners working to overcome these barriers, especially for particularly vulnerable people like seniors and children. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program and Meals on Wheels are providing access to dining programs for seniors. Food shelves and schools are offering back pack programs where kids leave school for the weekend, with bags full of food for them and their families.
“People really care about their neighbors and friends who are missing meals,” said Char.
If you would like to learn more about what hunger looks like in your community visit the Feeding America Food Insecurity Map.