The impacts of Food insecurity By: Ebony Dukes

What are the effects of food insecurity on elementary aged Children, and how does this impact their educational performance and social well being?
What is Food insecurity?

Food insecurity can be defined as...

"the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food."

Food insecurity is a phenomenon, with lengthy periods of food adequacy followed by brief periods of food scarcity.

WHat are the Effects of Food insecurity?

The effects of food insecurity can range from drastic to minor depending on the severity and frequency of the situation.

The psychological effects of this may be promoting binging when food is accessible, as a way to prepare for expected food shortages.

Document 1

In an article from the American Academy of Pediatrics it states that sixteen million US children (21%) live in households without consistent access to adequate food.

"Food insecurity can affect children in any community, not only traditionally underserved ones."

These children are likely to be more frequently sick, recover from illness much more slowly, and be hospitalized more frequently. Also lack of adequate healthy food can impair a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school. It is linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional issues from preschool through adolescence.

"The federal poverty threshold for an average family of 4 people in 2013 was $23 834; 185% of this threshold amount is $44 093, but the federal poverty level is not a definition of economic hardship, and the amount to provide basic needs for a family of 4 often far exceeds this amount. Because 30% of food-insecure households have incomes above this level, it is clear the problem is not related solely to poverty."

Document 2

In a study conducted by the American Public Health Association, their objective was to "examine whether food insecurity was different for children in cohabiting or repartnered families versus those in single-mother or married parent (biological) families".

The results they found were that the probabilities of CFI (child food insecurity) in cohabiting or repartnered families were generally higher than in married-biological-parent families and often statistically indistinguishable from those of single-mother families.

However, after adjustment for sociodemographic factors, most differences between family types were attenuated and most were no longer statistically significant.

Their conclusion was that although children whose biological parents are living together, or whose biological mothers have remarried have risks for food insecurity, compared to those in single-mother families, "the probability of CFI does not differ by family structure when household income, family size, and maternal race, ethnicity, education, and age were held at mean levels"

Document 3

In a 2012 article by Dr. A lopez he explains that the most energy-dense foods in the United States are generally the least expensive. And from 1998 to 2002, the average price of fresh fruits and vegetables grew at a rate substantially higher than other more nonnutritious foods ie. sugary foods, soft drinks, and high calorie fatty foods.

"A person who had ~ $1 to spend on lunch might purchase an apple (~ 60 calories) or a small package of cookies (~ 200 calories)."

This is not an unrealistic choice for many; consider that in the United States, the average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit is $288 per month for a family of four, which is about $2.40 per person per day.

And unfortunately the odds of an individual becoming diabetic is almost doubled if they are food insecure, compared to those who are not.

Document 4

Food insecurity can predict high levels of children’s mental health symptoms. In the article Food Insecurity And Children’S Mental Health: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study, it was found that children growing up in families that are food-insecure have elevated levels of symptoms related to anxiety/depression. These children are also more prone to disabilities such as hyperactivity/ inattention.

"Addressing food insecurity and associated problems in families could help reduce the burden of mental health problems in children and reduce social inequalities in development."

It was found that food insecurity is distinctively associated with children’s symptoms of hyperactivity/inattention. This was found to be true for a few reasons:

  • food insecure families are disproportionately exposed to multiple risks. With multiple risk factors it can lead to the impaired development of children.
  • psychologically speaking, food insecurity can lead to the weak bonds between children and their parents, which have negative effects on a child's mental heal later on in life.
  • food insecurity may be associated with maternal depression, which may also affect a child's mental health.

The results of this study concluded that children growing food-insecure families were two-times more likely to have symptoms associated with hyperactivity/inattention than children who are not food insecure.

Document 5

In a study conducted by The University of Chicago, it was found that food insecurity is not related directly to behavior problems. Disproving the previously proposed explanations, the results of their study seemed to favor a different explanation; "long-term family background and parental characteristics, not short-term food insecurity, are the major factors contributing to child behavior problems."

"The disparities in the findings imply that food insecurity relations with child behavior problems are more complicated than previous research recognizes, and further examination is needed."

They go on to say that “The findings suggest that the dynamic relationships among food insecurity, parental characteristics, and child behavior problems cannot be captured in a simple way. These relationships should be further investigated with well designed data and diverse methodologies”

Sources Cited:

  • Beery, Moira et al. "School Food Gardens: Fertile Ground For Education". Health Education, vol 114, no. 4, 2014, pp. 281-292. Emerald, doi:10.1108/he-05-2013-0019.
  • Lopez, A., and H. K. Seligman. "Clinical Management Of Food-Insecure Individuals With Diabetes". American Diabetes Association, 2012,
  • Melchior, Maria et al. "Food Insecurity And Children’S Mental Health: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study". Plos ONE, vol 7, no. 12, 2012, p. e52615. Public Library Of Science (Plos), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052615.
  • Miller, Daniel P. et al. "Family Structure And Child Food Insecurity". American Journal Of Public Health, vol 104, no. 7, 2014, pp. e70-e76. American Public Health Association, doi:10.2105/ajph.2014.302000.
  • NUTRITION AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT. Athens Center of Ekistics. 2017 [accessed 2017 Apr 28];5(28):42-43.
  • "Promoting Food Security For All Children". THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS, vol 136, no. 5, 2015, pp. e1431-e1438. American Academy Of Pediatrics (AAP), doi:10.1542/peds.2015-3301.
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