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June 2015Vol. 16, No. 5Linking Childhood Adversity and Food Insecurity

A recent study examines the connection between adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and food insecurity among adult caregivers. The Childhood Stress study interviewed 31 mothers of young children (less than 4 years old) in Philadelphia, PA, who reported levels of food insecurity in the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module. According to the study, children whose families are of lower socioeconomic status often have reduced access to nutritious foods. Children facing low food security are also likely to experience anxiety, emotional abuse, social isolation, and clinical depression. The impact of ACE and related food insecurity can have long-term effects lasting into adulthood.

Parents and caregivers who experience these adversities as children often find it difficult to improve the overall health and well-being of their family as adults. The lasting effects of ACE and food insecurity may include depression and emotional problems that can affect people's education, employment, and financial stability. The study advocates for increased research and policy initiatives to reduce food insecurity and to enhance the social and emotional wellness of children and families. This includes the improved integration of nutrition assistance programs with other assistance programs to help ensure that families receiving nutrition assistance also have access to opportunities such as behavioral health support and housing and child care assistance.

The Childhood Stress study was supported by a grant from the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, and was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board at Drexel University.

For more information, access "The Relationship Between Childhood Adversity and Food Insecurity: 'It's Like a Bird Nesting in Your Head'," by M. Chilton, M. Knowles, J. Rabinowich, and K. Arnold, Public Health Nutrition, 2015, at (692 KB).