Child Food Security
All children deserve consistent access to healthy food. However, approximately 1 in 6 children in the United States are without reliable access to healthy and affordable food. While child food insecurity trends have fluctuated over the past few decades, rates have been gradually decreasing since the household food insecurity rates among children peaked at 23% during the height of the Great Recession of 2008. Although food insecurity can affect children in all counties, children living in rural areas or regions with higher poverty rates are especially vulnerable.
Food security is associated with a variety of social and economic factors that can give rise to food insecure households, including: income level, ethnicity or race, transportation, employment, and disability. LGBTQ+ youth are also more often vulnerable to food insecurity and eating disorders than their peers. For households struggling with difficult financial decisions each day, food is often sacrificed in the face of rent, medical bills, or paying utilities in an effort to keep families afloat. Children who are food insecure may be more likely to have nutritional deficiencies, as well as behavioral and academic issues, making it an important public health issue to address.
Addressing child food security has beneficial impacts on long-term physical, emotional, and behavioral health as well as positive impacts on education. Broader economic and social system changes that address factors such as employment, poverty, and transportation can lead to improvements in children’s food security. Federal programs such as WIC, SNAP, and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program also address child food security at large. On a local level, community responses to this issue include the implementation of programs such as summer backpack food programs, home-delivery meal programs, and summer food service programs.