Weighing the Toll of Food Insecurity

Food insecurity isn’t directly tied to obesity among young children from low-income families – but it is linked to poor overall health, a new study indicates.

Food-insecure households lack consistent access to enough food for an active and healthy life, and the effects on children can be serious. Previous research indicates food-insecure children may be at greater risk of developmental delays, anxiety and poor academic performance, but findings on the link between food insecurity and obesity have been inconsistent.

Seeking answers, researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and elsewhere analyzed data for more than 28,000 children who were under 4 years old and primarily from low-income families in Baltimore; Boston; Little Rock, Arkansas; Minneapolis and Philadelphia. In all, 27.3% of these children lived in food-insecure households, while 16% were obese, 8% were underweight and 12% had stunted growth, according to the study, published this week in the journal Pediatrics.