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Food Security

Around the world and across ethnic groups, food security greatly influences the meanings, values, and benefits a family associates with food. A family who has food security is able to obtain enough food to avoid hunger. As income rises, a smaller percent of the income is used for food. Families with lower incomes spend a higher proportion of their incomes on food. Throughout the world, more money is spent on food than on other categories of activities. Sometimes families experience food insecurity; for those families, the primary role of food becomes satisfying hunger.

Hunger has negative consequences for children, including anemia, developmental and behavioral problems, and learning difficulties. Under-nourished pregnant women are more likely to have low-birthweight infants who are more likely to experience health and behavior problems. Food insecurity also causes anxiety for parents and children.

Because food is connected with so many social benefits, families who face long-term food insecurity are likely to experience more than physical suffering. Social relationships may be impaired; verbal abilities developed through family mealtime interactions might be less developed; the opportunities to negotiate and compromise food choices may be fewer. Families who are not able to be hospitable may lose social status. Therefore, the impact of food insecurity has far-reaching social, emotional, and developmental consequences for families and children.

Food is part of everyone's life. It affects the structure of family schedules and enhances relationships among family members and between families. Food may be a mark of cultural and religious identity. Culture shapes families' food attitudes and behaviors, and families' needs, beliefs, and behaviors impact culture. Because food is an essential part of families' physical and social lives, examining its role in families helps us to understand families in the context of their cultures.


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Other Resource

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Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily & Marriage TraditionsFood - Family Meals, Food And Culture, Food Security