The potential consequences of food insecurity for children
Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of life, is important in establishing a good foundation that has implications for a child’s future physical and mental health, academic achievement, and economic productivity. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that threatens that critical foundation. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 16.7 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences.
Infancy & Development
Children growing up in food-insecure families are vulnerable to poor health and stunted development from the earliest stages of life.[i]
- Pregnant women who experience food insecurity are more likely to experience birth complications than women who are food secure.[ii]
- Inadequate access to food during pregnancy has been shown to increase the risk for low birth weight in babies.[iii]
- Food insecurity has also been linked with delayed development, poorer attachment, and learning difficulties in the first two years of life.[iv]
Studies have found that food insecurity has been associated with health problems for children that may hinder their ability to function normally and participate fully in school and other activities.
- Children who are food insecure are more likely to require hospitalization.[v]
- Children who are food insecure may be at higher risk for chronic health conditions,[vi] such as anemia,[vii],[viii] and asthma.
- Children who are food insecure may have more frequent instances of oral health problems.[ix]
- Food insecurity among young children is associated with poorer physical quality of life,[x] which may prevent them from fully engaging in daily activities such as school and social interaction with peers.
Children who experience food insecurity may be at higher risk for behavioral issues and social difficulties.
Food insecure children may be at greater risk of truancy and school tardiness.[xi]
When they are in school, children who are food insecure may experiences increases in an array of behavior problems including: fighting,[xii]
mood swings, and bullying.[xv]