According to a recent study, there is less participation in free lunch programs by rural kids than urban children, even though they qualify for the program at approximately the same rate.
According to the study which was conducted by Jessica Carson at the University of New Hampshire, 63 percent of rural households qualifying for nutrition assistance receive it. Urban households have 71 percent participation.
Among suburban families, only 59 percent participate.
The study did not analyze possible reasons for non participation. Carson said that the differences may have resulted because of the way families perceive nutrition programs.
“In rural places in particular, where schools may be smaller and communities may be closer-knit, participation in the school meals program may be associated with more stigma than in other types of schools – a small town ‘everyone-knows-everything-about-everyone’ kind of scenario,” she said.
According to Carson, stigma affects the rate that rural residents participate in other safety net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).