Due to their growing numbers of elderly Americans and economic losses, rural areas of the United States now use federal food stamp benefits at higher rates than urban areas, according to Iowa Public Radio.
Since the late 1970s, congressional leaders have placed food programs in the farm bill to attract votes from cities, where food stamp use was highest. The hope was that rural and urban lawmakers would come together to get the big bill passed.
But the SNAP map has shifted. U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that since 2012, SNAP participation is highest among households in rural areas and small towns under 2,500 people.
Ellen Vollinger, legal director of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) said the development is not “shocking or surprising” considering “the degree to which SNAP is related to people being poor.”
FRAC analyzed the USDA data and found that nationally, 16 percent of households in rural areas use SNAP versus 13 percent in urban areas. The population of older people is larger in rural areas, which Vollinger said is driving the increase.
“The data, if anything, probably suggests that there could be an even greater reach for SNAP in rural areas if it was doing a stronger job of reaching more of the elderly who are, in fact, eligible but not participating,” she said.
Other people in rural areas who need SNAP are low-wage workers who just don’t make enough or don’t get enough hours at work, Vollinger said, and many recipients are families with children.