Children with insecurities about access to food show signs of low self-esteem and are less likely to make healthy choices for themselves, according to new Canadian research.
Noreen Willows, the study’s co-author and associate professor of community nutrition at the University of Alberta, said food insecurity affects roughly 12 per cent of Canadian households.
“But even more disheartening is that if a household has children in it, they’re even more likely to be food insecure,” Willows said.
“The most vulnerable members of our society, children who need good nutrition, many of them are living in households where their parents are struggling with having inadequate income to feed them.”
Grade 5 children in Nova Scotia were given questionnaires about self-attitudes, while parents were asked about their family’s ability to access nutritious foods.
Children from food-insecure families reported considerably higher rates low self-esteem.
“So not liking themselves, not liking the way they looked and lower confidence in being able to adopt health promoting behaviours,” Willows said.
It’s those behaviours that can help prevent long-term chronic disease, she said.
“We need to do everything possible to ensure we have environments and households where children can thrive. And being in a food insecure household doesn’t allow children to thrive,” Willows said.
This study isn’t the first to link food insecurity to negative outcomes in children. Willows believes more policies should be put in place to help lift families out of poverty.
“It seems like the information is reported every few years and there is still often resistance to enacting changes that could make a huge difference in the lives of families with children,” Willows said.