Food Insecurity and Weight Status Among U.S. Children and Families

An association between food insecurity and obesity remains unproven.

Food insecurity exists when families have limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Solutions to food insecurity might dovetail with remedies for obesity. However, until now efforts to combat food insecurity and obesity have remained separate.

This literature review summarizes current evidence of the relationship between food insecurity and weight status. The authors also consider studies of whether participants in federal food and nutrition programs—such as the National School Lunch Program—are more likely to be obese. The authors compiled peer-reviewed research published on PubMed and MEDLINE between 2000 and 2010.

Key Findings:

  • Among 13 cross-sectional studies, seven found that food insecurity makes obesity more likely for women.
  • Eight studies examined the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); six studies found no association between receiving SNAP benefits and obesity.
  • Parents in food-insecure households may be less likely to adhere to recommended practices for infant feeding.

This literature review found mixed evidence of an association between food insecurity and weight status. The authors make several recommendations for future research, including the development of a standard assessment for food insecurity.