To have and have not: Household determinants of food insecurity by age in a sample of Iowa food pantry recipients

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Towers, Kristin
Major Professor
Steven Garsaky
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Human Development and Family Studies

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies focuses on the interactions among individuals, families, and their resources and environments throughout their lifespans. It consists of three majors: Child, Adult, and Family Services (preparing students to work for agencies serving children, youth, adults, and families); Family Finance, Housing, and Policy (preparing students for work as financial counselors, insurance agents, loan-officers, lobbyists, policy experts, etc); and Early Childhood Education (preparing students to teach and work with young children and their families).


The Department of Human Development and Family Studies was formed in 1991 from the merger of the Department of Family Environment and the Department of Child Development.

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  • College of Human Sciences (parent college)
  • Department of Child Development (predecessor)
  • Department of Family Environment (predecessor)

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As the United States population ages and their healthcare needs grow it is necessary to examine health-related issues experienced by this population. Food insecurity is one such issue impacting not only older adults but the general population as well. Working to better understand determinants of food insecurity and what factors may protect against it may help in the fight against it.

Cross-sectional data from a survey studying food pantry clients living in four Iowa counties were used to (1) explore what household characteristics may increase the likelihood of experiencing food insecurity and (2) identify what resources may protect against it. The sample was divided into two age groups, those younger than age sixty and those age sixty and older, allowing for a deeper understanding of how food security may differ between age groups. Binary logistic regression was performed to assess the relationship between the dependent variable, household food security status, and multiple independent variables including health status, income, home ownership, employment, employment of household members, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation, housing assistance participation, and food pantry clients. Control variables included in the regression analysis were total number of household members, and the age, gender, and education of the respondent.

Hypotheses were partially confirmed. Independent variables significantly related to the household's food security status included the health status of the respondent, household income, SNAP participation, food pantry participation, receiving housing assistance, and the gender and age of the respondent. Respondent health status was the only independent variable significant for both age groups potentially indicating the costs of meeting one's health care needs may impact meeting the household's food needs regardless of the age of the household head (i.e., the survey respondent). It should be noted that it is possible that other relationships between the independent variables and food security existed; however, they occurred to such a small degree that they were not captured in the regression results. Despite limitations such as the sample being drawn through convenience sampling and generally lacking representativeness, these findings do offer guidance for future research.

Thu Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2009