• Technology
  • Program Areas
  • Activities & Learning Resources
  • Core Competencies
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Hot Topic: Food Insecurity and Immigrant Children - Implications for Growth and Development


    In 2009, 14.7 percent of households were food insecure at least some time during that year. This remains the highest recorded prevalence rate of food insecurity since 1995 when the first national food security survey was conducted.

    Food is one of our most basic needs. Along with oxygen, and water it is a basic necessity for human survival. Food security - defined informally as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life - is one of several conditions necessary for a population to be healthy and well-nourished. Food insecurity, in turn, refers to limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire food in socially acceptable ways.

    Food security is especially important for children because their nutrition affects not only their current health, but also their future health and well-being. A large body of research literature, amassed over the past two decades, shows clearly that food insecurity and hunger together with other correlates of poverty, can dramatically alter the architecture of children's brains, making it impossible for them to fulfill their potential.

    Household food insecurity is higher for infants with immigrant parents than for infants with native-born parents. Children with noncitizen parents were twice as likely to experience food insecurity than those with naturalized citizen parents. Food insecurity represents one of several risk factors that children in immigrant families face, and has negative implications for child outcomes such as school achievement and psychological well-being.

    Resources on Food Insecurity

    Food Insecurity in Households with Children: Prevalence, Severity, and Household Characteristics
    This summary of a report for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture provides information on food security in the United States in 2007, which identifies that nearly 16 percent of households with children were food insecure sometime during the year. This study found that about 85 percent of households with food-insecure children had a working adult, including 70 percent with a full-time worker. Fewer than half of households with food-insecure children included an adult educated past high school.

    Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2006 - 2008
    The U. S. Dept. of Agriculture releases an annual report on the state of food insecurity in the United States, which focuses on the general population in each state. The study includes a comprehensive list of state rankings and includes regional data on food insecurity for children under the age of 5.

    "Map the Meal Gap" is the first study to identify the county-level distribution of over 50 million food-insecure Americans, including those who are not eligible for food assistance. Access to county data can help service providers and policy makers more accurately target areas of need and develop more effective strategies for addressing food insecurity.

    Child Food Insecurity: The Economic Impact On Our Nation
    This report presents the results of research by Children's HealthWatch on the associations of food insecurity and hunger, as measured by the US Food Security Scale, with child health, growth and development. These research results are also reviewed within the context of other research on food security and hunger over the past ten years.

    Young Children in Immigrant Families Face Higher Risk of Food Insecurity
    New analyses presented in this research brief indicate that levels of food insecurity are higher among infants and toddlers with immigrant parents than among those with native-born parents. Among these young children, food insecurity is more likely when immigrant parents are less acculturated, for instance when they are noncitizens, arrived more recently, or have limited English skills.

    Food Insecurity Among Young Children In Immigrant Families
    This news brief highlights the impact of food insecurity on children from immigrant families. Recommendations include states working to ensure that families understand immigrant eligibility for federal benefits and work with trusted messengers, including community-based organizations, to connect families to nutrition assistance programs.

    Stretching Your Food Dollar
    This Extension website includes information on how to get the most out of your food budget. Some knowledge of nutrition, plus careful meal planning, skillful shopping, proper food storage, handling, and preparation will help you to serve satisfying meals while remaining within your food budget.

    More Hot Topics and New Research