Associations between diet quality, vegetable availability and access, and food security in low-income children




Landry, Matthew James

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Food insecurity is a pervasive problem in the United States, and has been previously associated with adverse health and wellbeing in children. The mechanism that underlies this association is assumed to be poor dietary intake, which is likely a result of lack of access to healthy, affordable foods. The purpose of this research was to examine associations between dietary quality, vegetable availability and access, and food insecurity within low-income children. Cross-sectional data from TX Sprouts, a school-based randomized controlled cooking, gardening, and nutrition intervention, were used. Public health and surveillance efforts rely on accurate measures of child food insecurity; however, research suggests that current efforts which utilize parent report of child-level food insecurity may be inaccurate or underestimate the true prevalence. The first aim was to compare child versus parent perceptions of child-level food security status via questionnaires within a large, ethnically diverse population. Previous approaches to alleviating food insecurity and providing nutritious foods, like vegetables, have focused on community or policy level barriers that these households may face. However, even when these barriers have been overcome, individual and interpersonal barriers to vegetable availability, access, and utilization may still persist. The second aim was to examine the relationship between individual and interpersonal barriers to availability, access and utilization of vegetables and household food insecurity. The third aim was to examine the relationship between self-reported food insecurity and dietary quality. Research in this area was needed as evidence linking food insecurity to child dietary intake has been largely unclear and has utilized parent’s perception of child-level food insecurity. The results of this research demonstrated the discordance that exists between child report and parent perceptions of child-level food insecurity and that additional research is needed in large, nationally representative samples. Further, within food-insecure households, significant barriers to access, availability, and utilization of vegetables were found. These barriers serve as ideal targets for future interventions seeking to improve vegetable consumption in low-income children. Lastly, food insecurity was associated with lower diet quality. Interventions targeting food insecure children are needed to improve dietary quality as this may alleviate some of the detrimental impacts of food insecurity on health and wellbeing.


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