Rural hunger cannot be solved solely based on interactions with individuals. Advocacy must take place. Beyond providing food and food education, action must be taken on a communal, systemic, and economic level.
Jobs, wages, school food programs, and access to fresh, healthy food are all key issues to engaging hunger in schools and communities.
Regular conversation with local school and community officials around issues and budgets are key to local movement. Further conversation and action around state and national issues are also crucial to working toward fair and living wages, improved school lunches, supporting of locally grown, fresh foods in all local stores, and continued improvements in the quality of life for individuals and communities.
One piece of legislation is very interesting to me, and is currently working its way through the NC House and NC Senate in two forms. The NC Rural Center’s bill tracker provides descriptions of each bill on their bill tracker.
H387 – Corner Store Initiative
Purpose: To assist healthy food small retailers by providing a
source of funding & assistance for the retailers in
both urban & rural areas to increase availability &
sales of fresh fruits & vegetables at affordable prices
to local residents.
House: Holley, Lambeth, McElraft, Quick
S498 Healthy Food Small Retailer Program
Assists Corner Store Initiative to aid healthy food small retailers (substantially similar to H 387).
Senate: Davis, Pate
These bills are working to providing resources and funding to local community stores to provide locally grown, fresh, affordable vegetables and fruits. This can be a country grocery store or gas station. I hope it also points to Dollar General stores which dot the rural landscape. Otherwise, these local communities often exist as fresh food deserts, where the only fruit and veggies are canned, maybe frozen, and often processed. This also provides resources to minority and marginalized communities in urban and rural to improve their fresh food access.
What I have learned over the years, is that while I grew up in a family with a garden and we often had fresh fruits and veggies throughout the year (along with canned and frozen), many others did not. Where my church sits, in the small town of Oak Hill, there is little grocery store. Less than 2.5 miles down the road are two full sized grocery stores with large produce sections (Food Lion and a Walmart Neighborhood Market). Yet, often people in Oak Hill don’t like to leave Oak Hill. Less than 2.5 miles away are two grocery stores, and within 5 miles are many more including an organic grocery (Food Matters), and a discount grocery store which is offers many organic, all natural, and fresh options.
I encourage you, especially if you live in NC, to communicate with your representatives to support this. You can write, call, post on the social media, and get others to do the same. If you are not in North Carolina, see if your local and state governments have similar policies and opportunities.