Rural Food Security, Food Availability, and Health Outcomes

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2009
Project completed:
March 2011

The high cost of obesity and related chronic diseases are of concern to rural America, contributing to health disparities in this population. An area of particular concern to rural America is food security and food availability, and its relationship to obesity and to other health and disease risk factors associated with poor diets. Our overall aim for this study is to elucidate the relationship between food insecurity, food availability, and selected health outcomes in rural counties in the U.S. The project will be conducted with two guiding hypotheses: 1) Food insecurity will differ significantly between rural and urban counties in the U.S. with rural areas experiencing more adverse conditions. 2) There will be a significant relationship between food insecurity, food availability and selected adverse health outcomes in non-metropolitan counties in the U.S. A number of different secondary data sources have been identified for use in this study, including data from the Household Food Security Report, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the Household Food Security Report and National Grocer's Association database of food outlet locations, the U.S. County Business Patterns for food related industries, CDC mortality rates, Area Resource File data, and the Regional Economic Information System (REIS) to derive estimates of transfer payments made to each county. Analysis will include descriptive and inferential statistics on the characteristics of food security and food availability in metropolitan vs. non-metropolitan counties in the U.S. Analyses will also include general linear models to test for differences in health outcomes as a function of food security and food availability, controlling for key covariates. Finally, analyses will test for differences in food availability and food security by key economic indicators in rural and urban areas. The results of this study will be published and made available on the RHRC website by the end of year 2, and submitted as soon as they are available to the Rural Health Research Gateway. We will also develop one or more manuscripts for submission to academic research journals.