Exploring the Intersection of Food Insecurity, Food Sourcing and Family Demography


Dr. Jennifer Garner, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Rank at time of award: Assistant Professor



Despite decades of research, programming, and policy aimed at ensuring that U.S. citizens have sufficient food access, food insecurity remains a pervasive issue. Nearly one in six U.S. households with children are food insecure and have insufficient or uncertain access to enough food for all household members. Addressing food insecurity is more than a moral imperative; food insecurity has notable links with children’s health, learning, and long-term wellbeing and with the health of childbearing women, which has important implications for intergenerational health outcomes. Food insecurity is also associated with poor dietary quality, obesity, chronic disease morbidity, and all-cause mortality.

Understanding factors that may contribute to or protect against household food insecurity is an important step toward the development of innovative and effective solutions. Household composition and food sourcing behaviors are two under-studied factors that may represent targets for potential intervention. Multigenerational living arrangements have been on the rise in the U.S. since the Great Recession and it is conceivable that such co-residential arrangements may impact a household’s resources, including the ability to access, purchase and prepare food reliably. Given the dietary and health disparities experienced by individuals in food insecure households, food sourcing behaviors are also worth exploration, especially in the context of the aforementioned trends in family and household demographics.

This study will examine relationships between household composition and household food security and between household composition and household food sourcing by household food security level. These relationships will be tested via nationally-representative data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the years since the Great Recession (2009-2017). Results will inform future studies employing primary data collection to understand the underlying mechanisms of any significant relationships and contribute to ongoing efforts to design interventions aimed at improving geographic and financial access to healthy foods among low-income and food-insecure households across a variety of retail contexts.