America's strength flows from the diversity of its people and landscape -- from large metropolitan regions to small cities and rural communities. Some of these areas are thriving while others experience serious economic problems. Many rural areas, in particular, face challenges related to changing economic structure, globalization, and out-migration. In these communities, the federal Food Stamp Program plays a vital role. With only a small outlay from states for administrative costs, it benefits the most vulnerable and needy populations, including significant numbers of rural children, disabled and elderly persons, and low-income working families.
Rural Americans disproportionately rely on the Food Stamp Program to help purchase food for a healthy diet. Based on our analysis of data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), 22 percent of the nation's population lived in nonmetropolitan or "rural" areas in 2001, but a full 31 percent of food stamp beneficiaries lived there. Overall, 7.5 percent of the nation's rural population relied on food stamps, compared with 4.8 percent of urban residents.