Too Hungry to Learn: Food Insecurity and School Readiness

Two new research briefs by Children’s HealthWatch show that access to an adequate, healthy diet (also known as food security) during early childhood is essential for developing the skills that children need in school and, later, in the workforce.

The first brief, Too Hungry to Learn, illustrates the strong connections between food security in early childhood and the development of skills crucial for school success including memory, emotional stability, and social skills. Conversely, food insecurity in children’s early years continues to have harmful effects long after the period of hardship is over; teens who experience food insecurity in infancy are more likely to have lower scores on achievement tests and to have repeated a grade.

As the second brief, Feeding Our Human Capital, shows, food insecurity in early childhood makes it harder to gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workforce and contribute to our nation’s economic prosperity. Child food insecurity creates obstacles to graduating high school and attaining higher education,impeding knowledge development. Childhood food insecurity also increases the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, which are expensive for both businesses and taxpayers.

Investing in our nation’s future through federal food and nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is a key strategy for ensuring that all children have sufficient, healthy food for optimal growth and development.