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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Michigan: For Children, Food Insecurity Means Not Only Hunger but Also Stress, Sadness

Parents who experience food insecurity might think they’re protecting their children from their family’s food situation by eating less or different foods so their children can be spared.

But a new study led by University of Michigan School of Public Health researchers shows that children know more about food insecurity — the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food — than their parents give them credit for.

“The long-held assumption is that parents will do whatever it takes to protect their children from food insecurity,” said Dr. Cindy Leung, lead researcher in the study scheduled for publication in the March issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Our study shows that children are not only aware that their family is food insecure, but they’re also psychologically impacted by it.”

The researchers talked to 60 children, ages 7 to 14, from the San Francisco Bay area. The children discussed worrying about not having enough food and about their parents’ well-being, anger and frustration about the lack of food; embarrassment about their family’s situation; strain on the family’s dynamics due to food insecurity; and sadness over not having enough food.

“Food is more than just the calories. There’s so much more to food than when you don’t have enough. It impacts your physical health and your mental well-being, and our interventions to address food insecurity should focus beyond just the provision of food.”

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