Characterizing Rural Food Access in Remote Areas

April 17, 2017

Residents of rural areas may have limited access to healthy foods, leading to higher incidence of diet related health issues. Smaller grocers in rural areas experience challenges in maintaining fresh produce and other healthy foods available for customers. This study assessed the rural food environment in northeast Lower Michigan in order to inform healthy food financing projects such as the Michigan Good Food Fund. The area’s retail food businesses were categorized using secondary licensing, business, and nutrition program databases. Twenty of these stores were visited in person to verify the validity of the categories created, and to assess the availability of healthy foods in their aisles. In-depth interviews with key inform-ants were carried out with store owners, economic development personnel, and other food system stakeholders having knowledge about food access, in order to learn more about the specific challenges that the area faces. Out-shopping, seasonality, and economic challenges were found to affect healthy food availability. Mid-sized independent stores were generally found to have a larger selection of healthy foods, but smaller rural groceries also have potential to provide fresh produce and increase food access. Potential healthy food financing projects are described and areas in need of further research are identified.

Rural grocery, Rural food access, Healthy food availability, Food environment, Outshopping

Bardenhagen, C. J., Pinard, C. A., Pirog, R., & Yaroch, A. L. (2017). Characterizing Rural Food Access in Remote Areas. Journal of Community Health. doi:10.1007/s10900-017-0348-1


Corresponding author
Chris J. Bardenhagen 

This article is available online at:  



Rich Pirog

Rich Pirog

Chris J. Bardenhagen, Courtney A. Pinard, Rich Pirog, Amy Lazarus Yaroch

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Center for Regional Food Systems

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