Effects of Food Insecurity On Individual and Household Well-Being Outcomes in Low, Middle and High Income Countries: Evidence From Uganda, the Philippines and the United States
Food insecurity remains a global issue. Approximately one billion people around the world are considered food insecure or lack adequate and stable access to safe and nutritious food (Barrett, 2010). Food insecurity exists in low, middle and high income countries, and predominantly affects those with lower socioeconomic status. Although the magnitude and severity may differ within and between countries, food insecurity poses serious challenges to well-being of individuals, households, and communities around the world. Empirical research has found negative associations between food insecurity and a range of outcomes including economic, education, health, social, and psychological. This symposium aims to expand the current state of knowledge on the effects of food insecurity by examining associations between food insecurity and well-being outcomes for individuals and households in low, middle and high income countries. The studies included in this symposium address gaps in knowledge related to the effects of food insecurity on psychosocial wellbeing of rural Ugandans, on sexual risk taking among Filipino youth, and on economic and educational preparation of young Americans.
The studies in this symposium used different research design and methods to investigate the effects of food insecurity on economic, education, health, and psychosocial outcomes of individuals and households. The Uganda study (N = 450) used data from a quasi-experiment that tested asset-building innovations in rural Uganda. This study examined the relationship between food insecurity and psychosocial wellbeing of individuals in Masindi, Uganda. The study conducted in the Philippines (N = 1,102) used data from a longitudinal study on health and nutrition status of Filipina mothers and their children. This study investigated the association between food insecurity and sexual risk taking among youth in Cebu, Philippines. SEED for Oklahoma Kids (SEED OK; N = 2,648) is an experiment that tests the impact of Child Development Accounts on children’s development outcomes. This study examined the effect of food insecurity and material hardship on college savings plan participation among households in Oklahoma. All three studies used various statistical methods including linear and logistic regressions and confirmatory factor analysis.
In Uganda, indicators of poverty and low socioeconomic status predicted food insecurity. Food security was associated with more positive outlook in life, better expectations of future household economic and living conditions, and improved perception of health status. In the Philippines, food insecurity was associated with sexual risk taking among youth. Youth who reported skipping meals were more likely than food-secure youth to have had sex against their will. In the United States, food insecurity and material hardship was negatively associated with 529-account holding.
Conclusions and Implications: This symposium expands our understanding of the relationship between food insecurity and well-being outcomes. Food insecurity contributes to adverse psychosocial, health, and economic outcomes among individuals and households in low, middle and high income countries. Food insecurity remains a global challenge with consequences that transcend geographic boundaries and national income. Food security programs are crucial to facilitate human development and social functioning, particularly among the most at-risk populations.