Helping out to Get By: The Poverty Paradox in Children's Food Insecurity

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: F203
Oral Presentation
Justin DENNEY , Department of Sociology, Rice University, Houston, TX
Rachel TOLBERT KIMBRO , Rice University, Houston, TX
Sociologists should be concerned with understanding the contributors to food insecurity. In the
United States (U.S.), one of the most developed nations in the world, more than 1 in 5
households with children are unable to access and provide adequate food for a healthy, active
lifestyle. Prior work has established important individual and family predictors of food insecurity
but largely failed to account for local context. Partially as a result of this focus on individual
families, solutions and policy aimed at eliminating food insecurity have fallen short. In fact, in
recent years, food insecurity in the U.S. has increased.
In this study, we examine the relevance of community contributors to food insecurity
among children, utilizing geocoded, nationally-representative data from the Early Childhood
Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten cohort (ECLS-K). We propose and test hypotheses suggesting
1) an accumulation of family and community risks, whereby the most disadvantaged families
living in the most disadvantaged communities face the highest odds of food insecurity and 2) a
poverty paradox, whereby the most disadvantaged families in the most disadvantaged
communities may have better access to helpful resources and collaborate in unique ways to
alleviate food insecurity, especially when it impacts the community’s most precious resource –
children. We find that community environments matter over and above characteristics of
individual families and that family and neighborhood traits combine in ways consistent with the
poverty paradox. Our next steps include gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms
underlying our findings as it will aid in our understanding of how community resources in
disadvantaged areas can be leveraged to alleviate food insecurity and thus improve the health and
achievement of children.