Poverty and food insecurity in rural Iowa: an examination of four food desert counties

Bitto, Ella
Major Professor
Lois Wright Morton
Paul Lasley
Committee Member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Sociology and Anthropology

Pockets of poverty are found throughout rural Iowa. Rural America is comprised of people with varying backgrounds who much make their livelihoods in a society that is increasingly a part of a global village. Living in Iowa, called by many the breadbasket of the world, does not necessarily mean that everyone will have equal access to food. In fact, over 46,600 Iowans between 2001--2003 experienced some form of poverty and 9.4 percent were defined as food insecure. This dissertation examines the economic structure of Iowa's counties to determine how agriculture and local business influence per capita income, inequality, and poverty. One examination of how poverty impacts people is food insecurity. The study focuses on four Iowa counties defined as food deserts---places with four or fewer grocery stores. In these counties I find many individuals participating in the countermovement---the alternative market---across all income levels as people grow their own gardened food and share with family, neighbors and friends. Participating in the countermovement provides access to goods and services that individuals might otherwise not be able to economically afford. Data suggests that individuals who are food secure are more likely to participate in community organizations, be more socially connected, and more likely to participate in the countermovement. For communities, when the basic needs are completely met, people are more likely to become involved in community organizations and create a larger social capital base. Some research suggests that improvement in health care, nutrition, and housing will create a spill-over effect onto communities that can establish higher forms of social and financial capital as well as having a healthier community.