Daily food insecurity is associated with diet quality, but not energy intake, in winter and during COVID-19, among low-income adults

Sara Jimenez Rincon, Nan Dou, Laura E. Murray-Kolb, Kristen Hudy, Diane C. Mitchell, Runze Li, Muzi Na

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Food insecurity (FI) is a dynamic phenomenon. Experiences of daily FI may impact dietary outcomes differently within a given month, across seasons, and before or during the COVID-19 pandemic. Objectives: The aims of this study were to investigate the association of short-term FI with dietary quality and energy 1) over six weeks in two seasonal months and 2) before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Using an ecological momentary assessment framework on smartphones, this study tracked daily FI via the 6-item U.S. Adult Food Security Survey Module and dietary intake via food diaries in 29 low-income adults. A total of 324 person-days of data were collected during two three-week long waves in fall and winter months. Generalized Estimating Equation models were applied to estimate the daily FI-diet relationship, accounting for intrapersonal variation and covariates. Results: A one-unit increase in daily FI score was associated with a 7.10-point (95%CI:-11.04,-3.15) and 3.80-point (95%CI: -6.08,-1.53) decrease in the Healthy Eating Index-2015 (HEI-2015) score in winter and during COVID-19, respectively. In winter months, a greater daily FI score was associated with less consumption of total fruit (-0.17 cups, 95% CI: -0.32,-0.02), whole fruit (-0.18 cups, 95%CI: -0.30,-0.05), whole grains (-0.57 oz, 95%CI: -0.99,-0.16) and higher consumption of refined grains (1.05 oz, 95%CI: 0.52,1.59). During COVID-19, elevated daily FI scores were associated with less intake of whole grains (-0.49 oz, 95% CI: -0.88,-0.09), and higher intake of salt (0.34 g, 95%CI: 0.15,0.54). No association was observed in fall nor during the pre-COVID-19 months. No association was found between daily FI and energy intake in either season, pre-COVID 19, or during-COVID-19 months. Conclusion: Daily FI is associated with compromised dietary quality in low-income adults in winter months and during the COVID-19 period. Future research should delve into the underlying factors of these observed relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalNutrition Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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