Maternal Strategies to Access Food Differ by Food Security Status

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Background Household food insecurity is associated with health and behavior risk. Much less is known about how food insecurity is related to strategies that adults use in accessing food: how and where they shop, use of alternative food sources, and their ability to manage resources. Objective To examine how maternal behaviors, including shopping, accessing alternative sources of food, and managing resources, are related to household food security status (HHFSS). Design Cross-sectional study collecting survey data on HHFSS, shopping behaviors, use of alternative food sources, and managing resources obtained from low-income mothers of preschool-aged children. Participants One hundred sixty-four low-income mothers of young children (55% Hispanic) from two communities in Rhode Island. Measures HHFSS was measured using 10 items from the 18-item Core Food Security Module to assess adult food security. Mothers were surveyed about where, when, and how often they shopped; the strategies they use when shopping; their use of alternative sources of food, including federal, state, and local assistance; and their ability to manage their resources. Statistical analysis Analysis of variance and χ2 analyses assessed the associations between demographic variables, shopping, accessing alternative food sources, and managing resources, and HHFSS. Multivariate logistic regression assessed the associations between HHFSS and maternal demographic variables, food shopping, strategies, alternative sources of food, and ability to manage resources. Results Maternal age and language spoken at home were significantly associated with HHFSS; food insecurity was 10% more likely among older mothers (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.10, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.17) and 2.5 times more likely among Spanish-speaking households (compared with non–Spanish speaking [aOR 3.57, 95% CI 1.25 to 10.18]). Food insecurity was more likely among mothers reporting more informal strategies (aOR 1.98, 95% CI 1.28 to 3.01; P<0.05) and perceiving greater inability to manage resources (aOR 1.60, 95% CI 1.30 to 1.98; P<0.05). Conclusions The results suggest that low-income mothers use a variety of strategies to feed their families and that the strategies they use vary by HHFSS. Community nutrition programs and providers will need to consider these strategies when counseling families at risk for food insecurity and provide guidance to minimize the influence on healthy food choices.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics