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Rural Child Hunger Faith Community Engagement Project

The World Food Policy Center at Duke University supported Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign by conducting an exploration of how faith communities engage with rural hunger. This research has informed No Kid Hungry’s Rural Child Hunger focus. WFPC and partners identified and engaged with faith communities working to combat rural hunger and its root causes through interviews with experts and practitioners.

Project Outcomes

Our report focuses on rural child hunger and represents a joint effort of the World Food Policy Center at Duke University and Share Our Strength. The report combines a review of existing literature with key informant interviews to illustrate current practices and future opportunities for faith communities to address rural child hunger. We highlight notable community and faith-based responses to rural food insecurity. Such efforts seek to overcome challenges such as the stigma and low nutritional quality of food assistance as well as the bureaucratic and political barriers to program implementation. We also recommend ways to support, expand, and partner in community led work that addresses the underlying inequities perpetuating rural child hunger.


This research was guided by a central question: how are faith communities addressing hunger in rural areas, and rural child hunger in particular? We identified four overarching themes to describe faith-based approaches to addressing rural hunger.

  • THE MORAL DIMENSIONS OF HUNGER AND POVERTY: Faith and Indigenous communities see hunger as a witness to imbalance in the world: a deeper problem than a calorie deficit. When communities see hunger as a social, economic, and moral problem, they take systemic and collective approaches to its resolution.
  • MOVING FROM CHARITY TO JUSTICE: Many of the organizations and individuals we interviewed described their work as a movement from charity to justice. Justice focused solutions to rural child hunger address environmental justice, land justice, social justice and racial justice.
  • CONTEXT IS KEY: Building successful and equitable partnerships with rural faith communities requires paying attention to rural contexts along with their unique needs and concerns.
  • SCARCITY VS. ABUNDANCE: Discussions on rural hunger sometimes focus on what rural communities lack, for instance, equal access to healthy food through conventional food retailers. Many faith community leaders instead start with a community’s strengths, like dense social networks, strong local foodways, or food provisioning practices that support self reliance.


  • LISTEN: Understand and Share Moral Frameworks to Address Hunger and Poverty
  • SUPPORT: Move from Charity to Justice through Community-led Institutional Partnerships
  • ANALYZE: Partner in Community-led Contextual Analysis
  • LIFT UP: Practice Asset-Based Approaches and an Abundance Worldview

Related Podcasts

Podcast - role of faith communities

E96: The Role & Promise of Rural Faith Communities in Solving Hunger
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Food insecurity in children is a tragic issue around the world and in the US. In America, the issue is especially challenging in rural areas. Rural faith communities often play a central role in addressing rural child hunger, and the support needs and desires of these organizations are nuanced by their faith tradition. This is the subject of a report done jointly by the Duke World Food Policy Center and the No Kid Hungry program of Share Our Strength. It is entitled, Rural Child Hunger and Faith Community Engagement. Joining us today are three experts on this issue. Emma Lietz Bilecky, the chief author of this report, received her graduate training at Duke University and is now Research Fellow with Princeton Theological Seminary’s Farminary project. Norman Wirzba and Robb Webb are some of the nation’s leading thinkers on issues of food and faith. Norman Wirzba a faculty member of the Duke Divinity School and has written some of the most influential texts on food and faith, and Robb Webb is Director of the Rural Church Division of The Duke Endowment and Chair of the Rural Life Committee of the North Carolina Council of Churches.



Duke World Food Policy Center:

  • Sarah Zoubek
  • Emma Lietz Bilecky
  • Kelly Brownell
  • Jen Zuckerman
    • Norman Wirzba, Duke Divinity School

Robert Webb, Rural Church Program Area, The Duke Endowment