A report commissioned by the Partnership for America’s Economic Success and written by Children’s HealthWatch and the Food Research Action Center addresses the range of economic consequences associated with persistently high rates of household food insecurity in the United States. Drawing from various sources of data, the report identifies the short- and long-term economic costs of the harmful effects of food insecurity on very young children.

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Reading, Writing and Hungry: The consequences of food insecurity on children and on our nation’s economic success

This report addresses the range of economic consequences associated with persistently high rates of household food insecurity in the United States. We focus specifically on the growing body of research demonstrating the harmful effects of food insecurity for very young children.

We identify short- and long-term economic costs of those effects, with emphasis on the costs arising from food insecurity‘s impacts on children. Our specific objectives are to address the following questions:

  • What are the effects of food insecurity on a young child‘s health, growth and development?
  • What are the short-term economic costs of food insecurity, and its correlated health consequences?
  • What is the long-term economic burden of food insecurity on children and the national economy?
  • How does food insecurity impact areas of life often overlooked in the discourse on hunger and poverty?
  • What are the relative magnitudes of preventive versus remedial costs to mitigate the negative impact of food insecurity?

The available literature addressing these questions is limited in many areas, and is derived from multiple fields of research. However, despite a scarcity of isolable and definite costs, we are able to conclude that food insecurity imposes a heavy burden on the economy which far
outweighs the economic cost of preventive measures. We recognize and note significant limitations in the existing literature around food insecurity in early childhood, and recommend
that further research focus on the pre-kindergarten period, including longitudinal follow-up, in order to fully trace the economic impact of food insecurity on the life trajectory of young
children.