It's more common for rural U.S. households to experience food insecurity, and while finding reliable access options has proved difficult, new business delivery options are offering solutions to hunger, reports Billy Roberts of CoBank. "Rural communities comprise 63% of all U.S counties but 87% of the counties with the highest food insecurity rates. . . . The Brookings Institution found delivery zones are concentrated in larger metropolitan areas, with only 37% of rural residents having access to any of the analyzed food delivery services."

While convenience and "dollar" stores have increased in rural towns, their ability to supply fresh food is still limited by population density. Additionally, when community revenue is compared between a dollar store and a local grocer, the local grocery store is a far better investment. Roberts reports, "CoBank and Food Co-op Initiative have worked together to expand programs for rural communities that have lost (or are at risk of losing) local grocery options. . . . An example is Marmaton Market in Moran, Kansas. A for-profit corporation operating under cooperative principles proved to be the solution for the town of 500. . . . The store emphasizes local as a means of supporting the economy, building morale and creating a stronger sense of community."

Beyond co-ops, current shipping and technology-based rural food delivery systems offer solutions. "Particularly for shelf-stable food and beverage, delivery mechanisms exist, even if it takes the form of FedExUPS or USPS. Fresh food offerings present another challenge altogether, but more direct-to-consumer approaches should, in the long term, be able to capitalize on improvements in technology (whether drone delivery or driverless trucks) to reach those who don't live near a grocery store," Roberts reports. "In collaboration with GatikTyson Foods will deploy AI-assisted autonomous trucks to haul prepared meats over predetermined short-haul routes to distribution and storage facilities in northwest Arkansas."

Read the full article about food deserts by Heather Close at The Rural Blog.