Rural Pennsylvania: An Overview

  • Percent of total population: 11.6%
  • Average food insecurity rate: 12.7%
  • Average child food insecurity rate: 21.3%
  • Highest child food insecurity rate in rural PA: Forest County
  • Percent of households receiving SNAP (food stamps): 13.6%
  • Average unemployment rate: 5.7%
  • Average poverty rate: 14.2%
  • Individuals qualifying for emergency food assistance: 1 in 4 residents (25%)

Obstacles Facing Rural PA Residents

Food Deserts

Low income

The green areas in this map represent low-income and low-access areas, putting these places at increased risk for food deserts and food insecurity. Many of these areas are located in rural Pennsylvania.

Lower Education Levels

Lower education levels tend to lead to lower wage jobs, which often negatively affects food security.

Percent to receive a Bachelor’s degree: 16.1%

Limited Access to Social Services

Limited access to services—such as social and transportation services—impacts food security.

Metro County: Allegheny
1 WIC office per 82 square miles

Rural County: Greene
1 WIC office per 144 square miles

Limited Access to Higher-Wage Jobs

In rural areas, employment is often ‘more concentrated in low-wage industries.’ There also tends to be higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.

Median household income: $44,524

Food Assistance Programs Reduce Food Insecurity and its Negative Impacts

  • Nationally, there is generally higher participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) among rural residents than urban residents.
  • 13.6% of rural households in Pennsylvania receive SNAP benefits, which provide additional resources to families to purchase food.
  • The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure found the number of children in poverty decreased by 22.3% when income from SNAP, WIC, the National School Lunch Program, and Earned Income Tax Credits were included in total household income.
  • By 2030, it is estimated that the total senior population in rural PA will be 25%. Food assistance programs such as SNAP, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), State Food Purchase Program and Commodity Supplemental Food Program can help rural seniors meet their dietary needs.


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