The Relationship Between Food Insecurity and BMI for Preschool Children

Katherine E. Speirs, Barbara H. Fiese, Kids Research Team STRONG Kids Research Team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objectives The literature exploring the relationship between food insecurity and obesity for preschool-aged children is inconclusive and suffers from inconsistent measurement. This paper explores the relationships between concurrent household and child food insecurity and child overweight as well as differences in these relationships by child gender using a sample of 2–5 year old children. Methods Using measured height and weight and responses to the Household Food Security Survey Module collected from a sample of 438 preschool-aged children (mean age 39 months) and their mothers, logistic regression models were fit to estimate the relationship between household and child food insecurity and child BMI. Separate models were fit for girls and boys. Results Twenty-seven percent of children from food insecure households and 25 % of child food insecure children were overweight or obese (BMI ≥ 85 %). There were no statistically significant associations between either household or child food insecurity and BMI for the full sample. For girls, but not boys, household food insecurity was associated with BMI z-scores (β = 0.23, p = 0.01). Conclusions Although food insecurity and overweight were not significantly associated, a noteworthy proportion of food insecure children were overweight or obese. Programs for young children should address food insecurity and obesity simultaneously by ensuring that young children have regular access to nutrient-dense foods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)925-933
Number of pages9
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Body mass index
  • Child health
  • Childhood obesity
  • Food insecurity
  • Preschool-aged children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this