Meals in the Mountains: Examining Longitudinal Changes in Rural/Urban Food Prices

Julia M. Miller, Julie N. Zimmerman, Kathryn Engle, Cameron McAlister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Across rural Central Appalachia, declines in coal have brought discussions about a post-coal future to the fore, often centering local foods as a development strategy. While farmers’ markets and food hubs are important within food landscapes, research often does not include grocery stores as a primary place for purchasing food. Further, common assumptions about the relative affordability of rural food remain understudied. Here, we examined prices in four rural counties in Central Appalachia, compared those prices with an identical set of food items in two nearby urban areas, and assessed changes across an eleven-year period. We ask three questions: (1) What happened to food prices over time across these areas? (2) How did food price changes compare with inflation? and (3) How did food price changes compare with local income? Contrary to popular perceptions that everything costs less in rural areas, we found the average price for our food bundle was higher in the rural counties. Not only did the rural Appalachian counties have lower median household incomes, but most saw food prices outstrip increases in household income. We discuss implications for rural food assistance benefits and the relationship between food prices and coal distress, as exemplified in Letcher County.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-187
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Appalachian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

Bibliographical note

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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