Childhood hunger policies should target neighborhoods, not families

March 22, 2012

Policies addressing childhood hunger should target neighborhoods, not individual families, according to new research from Rice University.

Sociologists found that children living in neighborhoods with higher and in those with high foreign-born populations and non-English speakers are more likely to experience hunger.

"Policymakers should be thinking about targeting whole communities, instead of what is done now, which is offering public aid programs for individual families," said Rice sociology professor Justin Denney. "Public aid works on a limited basis, reaching approximately 70 percent of eligible individuals. But unfortunately, the remaining 30 percent are unaccounted for."

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Research on Children, was co-authored by Denney and sociology professor Rachel Tobert Kimbro, co-founders of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research's Urban Health Program at Rice, and postbaccalaureate fellow Sarita Panchang. They used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative dataset of more than 20,000 in 1998-1999, to examine individual, family and of children who are or are not affected by hunger. In the dataset, the children were clustered according to schools and neighborhoods.

Kimbro said that many of these children facing hunger have foreign-born parents fearful of applying for aid, despite their children's eligibility as citizens of the U.S., or parents ashamed of applying for public aid. By changing the focus of these policies away from the individual and on to the community, she said, parents might take advantage of community food programs.

"If we have policies targeted at neighborhoods rather than individuals, no one is excluded," she said.

The authors hope their findings will influence future policies addressing issues of childhood hunger.

"Families are critical for , but communities and neighborhoods have significant impacts as well, as this study clearly demonstrates," Kimbro said.

Explore further: Examining motherly fears

More information: Study: Individual, Family, and Neighborhood Characteristics and Children's Food Insecurity:

Related Stories

Examining motherly fears

October 3, 2011

Neighborhood poverty is likely to make a mother more fearful about letting her children play outdoors, according to a new study by sociologists at Rice University and Stanford University.

Children in public housing play outdoors more

February 17, 2011

Young children living in urban public housing spend more time playing outdoors than other urban children, according to researchers at Rice University, Columbia University and Princeton University.

Recommended for you

Ancient parrot fossil found in Siberia

October 26, 2016

(—A Russian paleontologist has discovered a parrot fossil uncovered in Siberia several years ago—the first evidence of parrots living in Asia. In his paper published in Biology Letters, Nikita Zelenkov describes ...

Ancient burials suggestive of blood feuds

October 24, 2016

There is significant variation in how different cultures over time have dealt with the dead. Yet, at a very basic level, funerals in the Sonoran Desert thousands of years ago were similar to what they are today. Bodies of ...

Meet Savannasaurus, Australia's newest titanosaur

October 21, 2016

The outback region around Winton in central Queensland is arguably Australia's ground zero for giant dinosaur fossils. Here, graziers occasionally stumble across petrified bones on their paddocks, amid the stubbly grass and ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.