Food insecurity in high-risk rural communities before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

Carolina Quintero Arias, Melissa Rony, Erica Jensen, Rahi Patel, Stasha O'Callaghan, Christian A. Koziatek, Kelly M. Doran, Rebecca Anthopolos, Lorna E. Thorpe, Brian Elbel, David C. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To perform a geospatial analysis of food insecurity in a rural county known to have poor health outcomes and assess the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: In 2020, we mailed a comprehensive cross-sectional survey to all households in Sullivan County, a rural county with the second-worst health outcomes among all counties in New York State. Surveys of households included validated food insecurity screening questions. Questions were asked in reference to 2019, prior to the pandemic, and for 2020, in the first year of the pandemic. Respondents also responded to demographic questions. Raking adjustments were performed using age, sex, race/ethnicity, and health insurance strata to mitigate non-response bias. To identify significant hotspots of food insecurity within the county, we also performed geospatial analysis. Findings: From the 28,284 households surveyed, 20% of households responded. Of 4725 survey respondents, 26% of households reported experiencing food insecurity in 2019, and in 2020, this proportion increased to 35%. In 2020, 58% of Black and Hispanic households reported experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity in 2020 was also present in 58% of unmarried households with children and in 64% of households insured by Medicaid. The geospatial analyses revealed that hotspots of food insecurity were primarily located in or near more urban areas of the rural county. Conclusions: Our countywide health survey in a high-risk rural county identified significant increases of food insecurity in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite national statistics reporting a stable rate. Responses to future crises should include targeted interventions to bolster food security among vulnerable rural populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere31354
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 30 2024


  • COVID-19
  • Food insecurity
  • Global pandemic
  • Health disparities
  • Rural health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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