This study investigates associations between food insufficiency and cognitive, academic, and psychosocial outcomes for US children and teenagers ages 6 to 11 and 12 to 16 years.
Data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) were analyzed. Children were classified as food-insufficient if the family respondent reported that his or her family sometimes or often did not get enough food to eat. Regression analyses were conducted to test for associations between food insufficiency and cognitive, academic, and psychosocial measures in general and then within lower-risk and higher-risk groups. Regression coefficients and odds ratios for food insufficiency are reported, adjusted for poverty status and other potential confounding factors.
After adjusting for confounding variables, 6- to 11-year-old food-insufficient children had significantly lower arithmetic scores and were more likely to have repeated a grade, have seen a psychologist, and have had difficulty getting along with other children. Food-insufficient teenagers were more likely to have seen a psychologist, have been suspended from school, and have had difficulty getting along with other children. Further analyses divided children into lower-risk and higher-risk groups. The associations between food insufficiency and children's outcomes varied by level of risk.
The results demonstrate that negative academic and psychosocial outcomes are associated with family-level food insufficiency and provide support for public health efforts to increase the food security of American families.