Who Are America‘s Poor Children? Examining Food Insecurity Among Children in the United States

Wight, Vanessa; Thampi, Kalyani

Fourteen million children live in poor families (that is, families with income below the federal poverty level, which is $22,050 a year for a family of four in 2009). There is a wide body of research documenting the importance of family income for children‘s health and well-being. Yet, research suggests that families with income twice the poverty threshold experience as many material hardships as poor families, such as food insecurity, inadequate housing, and insufficient health care. These findings are alarming and underscore the degree to which income-based measures of impoverishment mask experiences with material deprivation that are widespread and transcend the standard thresholds that define poverty. The focus of this report is on one type of material hardship — food insecurity — highlighting an important, but sometimes overlooked, dimension of impoverishment. This topic has taken on added significance recently as overall wealth in the United States is on the rise while record numbers of Americans are experiencing food insecurity, or the lack of consistent access to adequate food. Children exposed to food insecurity are of particular concern given the implications scarce food resources pose to children‘s health and well-being. Using data from the 2008 Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement, this report examines what is known about food insecurity among children in the United States today, why this social problem warrants our attention, and the policy solutions that might help families minimize the degree to which they and their children experience this material hardship. In the first section, we define the concept and measurement of food insecurity and assess the proportion of households with children who are food insecure today and how that has changed over the last decade. Next we examine the population of households with food insecurity among children — assessing the causes and consequences associated with this material hardship. The report closes with a discussion of public policy approaches to relieve food insecurity.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
National Center for Children in Poverty
National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University
Published Here
July 14, 2011