Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 674–690 | Cite as

Rural Mothers’ Use of Formal Programs and Informal Social Supports to Meet Family Food Needs: A Mixed Methods Study

  • Josephine A. SwansonEmail author
  • Christine M. Olson
  • Emily O. Miller
  • Frances C. Lawrence
Original Paper


Much of the research on low-income families, welfare, and self-sufficiency has focused on urban populations. Further, many of the studies on informal or social support available to and accessed by low-income families addressed needs such as childcare, transportation, money, or housing and did not focus on food issues. This paper focuses on how formal government food assistance programs and informal supports are utilized by rural low-income families as they work to meet their food needs. Drawing on interviews from the multi-state “Rural Families Speak” project, we examine food security in relation to the use of formal and informal supports. Additional analyses address how mothers view and describe their use of support to meet food needs.


Food security Social support Welfare 



This research was supported in part by USDA/CSREES/NRICGP Grant Number 2001-35401-10251 & 2002-35401-11591, the College of Human Ecology and the Hazel E. Reed Human Ecology Extension Chair in Family Policy at Cornell University, the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. Data were collected in conjunction with the cooperative multi-state research project approved by U.S. Department of Agricultural Experiment Station System, NC-223, Rural Low-Income Families: Monitoring Their Well-Being and Functioning in the Context of Welfare Reform. Cooperative states are California, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Wyoming. The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Kendra P. Anderson in conducting qualitative analysis, the constructive comments of anonymous reviewers and the assistance of Lauri Whatley, Jennifer J. Bureczyk-Brown, and Allison Rayburn in preparing the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josephine A. Swanson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christine M. Olson
    • 2
  • Emily O. Miller
    • 2
  • Frances C. Lawrence
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Human EcologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Nutritional SciencesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  3. 3.Louisiana State University Agricultural CenterBaton RougeUSA

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