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Objective: To examine how income-related challenges regarding food and health are associated with variation in self-reported maternal body weight among low-income mothers.

Design: Cross-sectional design.

Setting: Two Northeastern cities. Seven day care centers and a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program outreach project.

Participants: Sample of 166 mothers; 67% were overweight or obese, 55% were Hispanic, and 42% reported household food insecurity (HFI).

Main Outcome Measures: Maternal self-reported height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI). Independent variables were food program participation, supermarket use, 8-item food shopping practices scale, HFI, maternal depressive symptoms, and self-rated health.

Analysis: Hierarchical multiple regression analysis tested relationships between maternal BMI with the independent variables of interest, adjusting for demographic confounds.

Results: Shopping practices to stretch food dollars (P = .04), using community food assistance programs (P < .05), and HFI (P < .04) correlated with heavier maternal BMIs; higher self-rated health corresponded to lower BMIs (P = .004).

Conclusions and Implications: Some strategies low-income mothers use to manage food resources are associated with heavier BMIs. Nutrition educators, public health practitioners, and researchers need to collaboratively address the associations between these strategies, food insecurity, poor health, and unhealthy weight.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Karen McCurdy and Tiffani Kisler are with the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Kathleen S. Gorman is with the Department of Psychology.