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Researchers Find Link Between Food Insecurity and Racism Among Mothers

Person pushing grocery cart

November 22, 2019

Experiencing racial discrimination has been associated with a number of factors that may negatively impact health. Living with racism not only limits income and opportunities, it produces stress that can harm physical and emotional health.

New peer-reviewed research from a team at the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH), has now found that racism can also contribute to food insecurity, even when public assistance funds intended to alleviate food insecurity are available. Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH, professor of health management and policy, Center for Hunger-Free Communities, Pam Phojanakong, PhD, MPH, research fellow/data analyst, Center for Hunger-Free Communities, Félice Lê-Scherban, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, Gabriella Grimaldi, MPH, and DrPH student Emily Brown Weida published “Experiences of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination Are Associated with Food Insecurity and Poor Health” in the November 2019 issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The study looked at the association of mothers’ experiences of discrimination (EODs) with household food insecurity (HFI), physical health, and depressive symptoms, while taking into account the influence of the mothers’ Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and public assistance participation. They found that among Latinx mothers, EODs in school were associated with nearly 60 percent higher odds of HFI and nearly 80 percent higher odds of depressive symptoms. Latinx and Black mothers with EODs in workplaces had higher odds of HFI compared to mothers without EODs.

“We think that one of our most important findings is that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance did little to attenuate the strong association between food insecurity/depression/health and interpersonal racism experienced from police/courts, in schools, and in the labor market,” said Chilton.

Read the study.