One in Eight U.S. Households with Infants is Food Insecure

Washington, DC – One in eight U.S. households with infants (12.5 percent) reports being “food insecure”, according to a new analysis by Child Trends.  “Food insecure” is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.”




  • Among households with low-birthweight infants—infants born weighing less than 5.5 pounds—about one in seven (14.4 percent) is food insecure.


  • Among poor households with infants, nearly three in 10 (28.9 percent) report food insecurity.

Child Trends’ findings are presented in a new research brief, Food Insecurity and Overweight among Infants and Toddlers: New Insights into a Troubling Linkage, by Jacinta Bronte-Tinkew, Ph.D., Martha Zaslow, Ph.D., Randolph Capps, Ph.D., and Allison Horowitz, B.A.


The brief also links food insecurity with maternal depression, poor parenting, and—paradoxically—overweight toddlers.


Among the findings:


  • Young children living in households with very low food security are 61 percent more likely to be overweight than are young children living in food-secure households.
  • Mothers living in food-insecure households are significantly more likely to report symptoms of depression than are mothers living in food-secure households.


  • Parents in food-insecure households have less positive interactions with their infant children, such as less responsiveness to infant distress and less behavior directed at fostering their babies’ social and emotional growth.

“Reducing food insecurity among families with infants is critical for children’s later development,” says Jacinta Bronte-Tinkew, Ph.D., who is the lead author of the report.


The research brief draws on data released in 2006 from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort.


Research for the brief was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Economic and Research Service.


Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center serving those dedicated to creating better lives for children. For more information about Child Trends, visit