Family and Social Context Contributes to the Interplay of Economic Insecurity, Food Insecurity, and Health

Ann Anthropol Pract. 2017 Nov;41(2):67-77. doi: 10.1111/napa.12114. Epub 2017 Nov 21.


In this study, we show how household health, economic instability, and food insecurity are inextricably linked; disruptions in individual health or income create cumulative and interdependent challenges faced by multiple household members. Drawing upon semi-structured focus groups with English- and Spanish-speaking clients of an urban food pantry, we demonstrate: (1) the impact of economic scarcity on health, (2) the impact of one household member's health on the health and food security of all household members, and (3) food sharing behaviors among family and social networks, including multi-generational families and non-kin individuals. We identify the gap between household-level assessments of food insecurity and individual-level health reports, which may obscure poor health among other household members. Understanding the social and family context of health and food insecurity may inform future interventions that address the interrelated challenges of diverse and disadvantaged households and communities.