Household food security and nutritional status of Hispanic children in the fifth grade

Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Jul;76(1):210-7. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/76.1.210.


Background: Food insecurity is a critical variable for understanding the nutritional status of low-income populations. However, limited research is available on the relation between household food insecurity and children's nutritional status.

Objective: Our objective was to examine the relations among household food insecurity, household food supplies, and school-age children's dietary intakes and body mass indexes (BMIs).

Design: A sample of 124 predominantly Hispanic, fifth-grade children and their mothers were surveyed as part of a school-based obesity-prevention program. Data on the children's weights and heights were collected and three 24-h dietary recalls were conducted. The mothers provided reports of household food insecurity and household food supplies.

Results: Food insecurity was negatively associated with the children's BMIs and household food supplies but not with the children's food intakes. However, a secondary analysis showed that as payday approached, children from the most food-insecure households had significant decreases in energy intakes and meat consumption.

Conclusions: This is one of the first studies to report a significant association between food insecurity and children's nutritional status. The ages and sex-adjusted BMIs of the food-insecure children were lower than those of the food-secure children but were still within the normal range. The lower BMIs in the food-insecure children may have been due to short-term, yet periodic food restrictions that resulted as household food supplies diminished before payday. Future research is needed to assess the physiologic and psychological effects of periodic food restriction on children's health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • California
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Diet Surveys
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Food Supply*
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Poverty