Panel Paper: Understanding Very Low Food Security Among Children In the U.S

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 8:50 AM
Salon D (Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Neeraj Kaushal, Columbia University

The objective of this project is to investigate the causes of, and possible remedies for, very low food security among children in the United States. As of 2009, approximately 11% of the 39.5 million households with children in the U.S. experienced low food security among children and 1.2% experienced very low food security among children (Nord, Coleman-Jensen, Andrews, & Carlson, 2010). 

Building on prior research, the specific aims of our proposed study are:

1) To better understand the links between income, poverty, and very low food security among children and, in particular, why poverty is not more highly correlated with very low food security. Because official poverty statistics measure available family resources with considerable error, we will examine this using the new supplemental measure of poverty which better captures family resources.      

2) To better understand what child, family, and community level factors, beyond income, explain very low food security among children, in particular, why some low-income children have very low food security while others with similar incomes do not. To address this aim, using longitudinal data, we will examine in depth the circumstances of families where children have very low food security, focusing on both protective and risk factors.  

3) To examine the role of public policies, including but not limited to food and nutrition assistance programs, in reducing very low food security among children. To what extent have the generosity and accessibility of safety net programs – cash and non-cash – helped reduce the prevalence and severity of food insecurity among children? What are the implications for government efforts to reduce very low food security among children? 

4) A cross-cutting aim is to examine the reasons for higher rates of food insecurity among children of immigrants as compared to children of the native-born. To what extent are these differences a function of income or other family-level factors? To what extent do these differences reflect differential eligibility and take-up of safety net programs? Our study will shed new light on the links between income, poverty, and food insecurity, focusing in particular on very low food security among children. We will also examine the role played by factors other than income, and the role played by public policies (including but limited to food and nutrition assistance programs). Finally, we will also provide evidence as to the reasons for the higher rates of food insecurity among children of immigrants. Our study is therefore both timely and policy-relevant, and we hope our findings will inform policies to help our nation meet its goal of eliminating child hunger.