Small towns and rural communities are home to millions of Americans, are a vibrant part of our nation’s economy, and include some of the most beautiful landmarks in the country. Rural America provides the vast majority of food, energy, and environmental benefits for the rest of the country. Additionally, rural communities are the source of nearly 90 percent of renewable water resources, and home to important service sector and manufacturing hubs.
Despite this critical role in our nation’s economy, too many Americans in rural areas are not sharing in our nation’s economic growth. A full 85 percent of our country’s persistent poverty counties are in rural America. Lack of opportunity for rural kids and families is often compounded by other challenges, including distance from health and early learning programs, lack of access to public transportation, and higher rates of drug and substance abuse. But for all kids, the road to successful adulthood relies on a strong foundation of access to basic health, nutrition, high-quality early education, strong schools, and support from parents and caregivers.
Counties Leading the Way
Recognizing the critical role local officials play in supporting innovation and change, the National Association of Counties (NACo) has a national initiative to help advance counties’ efforts to reduce the number of rural children and families living in poverty. The Rural Impact County Challenge (RICC) seeks to recognize and support counties making real difference in the lives of children in rural communities.
The Rural Impact County Challenge is a Call to Action demonstrating strong county leadership, commitment, and vision to achieve concrete results on behalf of rural children and families. This Call to Action asks counties to develop or refine an actionable plan that can be used to achieve local and state-level impacts. While it is not required to participate, county elected officials can also pass a resolution pledging to work with local, state, and federal entities (e.g., schools, health and social service providers, and state and federal policymakers), children and families, and other key stakeholders. Actionable items include:
- Convene or draw on a diverse team of leaders and decision makers from multiple agencies committed to reducing the number of children and families in rural areas living in poverty
- Develop a plan with measurable outcomes that improves access, participation, and/or impact of evidence-based and other promising practices in one or more of the following areas: early childhood education, nutrition, workforce development, and health and human services.
- Implement research-based approaches that advance the plan.
- Create a process to track progress using data and information systems, and to report on successes.
If your county is interested in passing a resolution to signal your support, a sample resolution for your county board can be found here.
If your county is interested in participating in the Rural Impact County Challenge, please complete the short form below. Please be sure to attach any relevant files (passed county resolution, additional information or materials on County Challenge project) before submitting your completed form.