Food insecurity is inversely associated with positive childhood experiences among a nationally representative sample of children ages 0-17 years in the U.S.

Xing Zhang, Meg Bruening, Chinedum O. Ojinnaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: We examined the association between food insecurity and positive childhood experiences (PCEs). Design: Outcome measure was number of PCEs and seven PCE constructs. Food insecurity was assessed with a three-category measure that ascertained whether the respondent could afford and choose to eat nutritious food. We then used bivariate and multivariable Poisson and logistic regressions to analyze the relationship between food insecurity and the outcome measures. The analyses were further stratified by age (≤5 years, 6-11 years, 12-17 years). Setting: The National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) from 2017-2020, a nationally representative sample of children and adolescents in the U.S. Participants: Parents/caregivers who reported on their children's experiences of PCEs and food insecurity from the 2017-2020 NSCH (n=114,709). Results: Descriptively, 22.13% of respondents reported mild food insecurity, while 3.45% of respondents reported moderate to severe food insecurity. On multivariable Poisson regression analyses, there was a lower rate of PCES among children who experienced mild (IRR=0.93; 95% CI=0.92, 0.94) or moderate/severe food insecurity (IRR=0.84; 95% CI=0.83, 0.86) compared to those who were food secure. We found an inverse relationship between food insecurity and rate of PCEs across all age categories. Conclusions: Our study finding lends evidence to support that interventions, public health programs, as well as public health policies that reduce food insecurity among children and adolescents may be associated with an increase in PCEs. Longitudinal and intervention research are needed to examine the mechanistic relationship between food insecurity and PCEs across the life course.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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