Energy insecurity compounds the negative effects of food insecurity on child health. “Heat or eat” and “cool or eat” situations further compromise the nutrition of already-vulnerable young children, and increase their risk of health problems in both the short- and long-term. Children of color are at increased risk of experiencing the damaging effects of energy insecurity because their families are disproportionately poor and underserved. This report details Children’s HealthWatch data on energy insecurity among children of color, focusing specifically on Black and Latino children ages 0 to 3.

Balancing Acts: Energy Insecurity among Low-Income Babies and Toddlers of Color Increases Food Insecurity and Harmful Health Impacts

Understandably, when most of us think about poverty and hunger, we picture the bare kitchen
table or the empty refrigerator. Few of us imagine the thermostat turned to ‘off’ or the electricity
shut-off notice in the mail. But the reality is that low-income families struggle with deprivation
and the ability to consistently provide for multiple survival needs. While each problem warrants
attention, there are few so urgent as energy insecurity.

Energy insecurity is harmful to young children’s health, growth, and development. The results from this study show that energy insecurity increases the chances that babies and toddlers of color will get sick and have developmental problems. In addition, young children of color from energy insecure families have increased odds of food insecurity, which, in turn, is linked with increased risk of hospitalizations, nutrient deficiencies, learning and developmental deficits, and behavioral and emotional problems. These findings demonstrate that energy supports need to be prioritized by policymakers serving low-income communities of color, and suggest that the current structure for assisting families is inadequate. Changes can be made that will brighten the prospects for young children of color and all of America’s children.