Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 111–123 | Cite as

Understanding Food Insecurity Among Latino Immigrant Families in Rural America

  • Yoshie SanoEmail author
  • Steven Garasky
  • Kimberly A. Greder
  • Christine C. Cook
  • Dawn E. Browder
Original Paper


Using ecological theory, this study investigated how low-income rural Latino immigrant families succeeded or failed to meet their food needs over time. Interviews with ten families purposively selected to represent consistently food secure, fragile, and consistently food insecure groups were intensively analyzed using a case study approach. Achieving and maintaining food security was a complicated task and a constant struggle for families. Success or failure was influenced by factors at multiple ecological levels including family characteristics, access to social networks and community support, and the local economy. These findings can inform practitioners and policymakers seeking to identify strategies and policies that will support Latino immigrant families as they work toward improving their well-being.


Food insecurity Latino immigrants Low-income Rural 



This research was supported in part by USDA/CSREES/NRICGP Grants 2001-35401-10215, 2002-35401-11591, 2004-35401-14938. Data were collected in conjunction with the cooperative multi state research project NC-223/NC-1011 Rural Low-income families: Tracking Their Well-being and Functioning in the Context of Welfare Reform.


  1. Bauer, J. W. (2004). Basebook Report: Low income rural families: Tracking their well-being and functioning in the context of welfare reform. North Central Region, Multi State Project NC223.Google Scholar
  2. Berry, A. A., Katras, M. J., Sano, Y., Lee, J., & Bauer, J. W. (2008). Job volatility of rural, low-income mothers: A mixed methods approach. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 29, 5–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bhattacharya, J., DeLeire, T., Haider, S., & Currie, J. (2003). Heat or eat? Cold-weather shocks and nutrition in poor American families. American Journal of Public Health, 93(7), 1149–1154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bickel, G., Nord, M., Price, M., Hamilton, W., & Cook, J. (2000). Guide to measuring household food security. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  5. Brennan, M., & Lipman, B. J. (2007). The housing landscape for America’s working poor families, 2007. Washington, DC: Center for Housing Policy.Google Scholar
  6. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (1998). The ecology of developmental processes. In R. M. Lerner (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology theory (5th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 993–1028). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Capp, R., Horowitz, A., Fortuny, K., Bronte-Tinkew, J., & Zaslow, M. (2009, February). Young children in immigrant families face higher risk of food insecurity. Child Trends Research Brief Publication #2009-07. Retrieved February 27, 2009 from
  8. Census Bureau, United States. (2006). Race and Hispanic origin in 2004. Population Profile of the United States: Dynamic Version. Retrieved February 25, 2006, from
  9. Cook, J., Frank, D., Berkowitz, C., Black, M., Casey, P., Cutts, D., et al. (2004). Food insecurity is associated with adverse health outcomes among human infants and toddlers. Journal of Nutrition, 134, 1432–1438.Google Scholar
  10. Decker, C. (2008). Nebraska’s immigrant population: Economic and fiscal impacts. Prepared for the Office of Latino/Latin American Studies. Omaha, NE: University of Nebraska at Omaha.Google Scholar
  11. Delgadillo, L., Sorensen, S., & Coster, D. C. (2004). An exploratory study of preparation for future care among older Latinos in Utah. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 25, 51–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dominguez, S., & Lubitow, A. (2008). Transnational ties, poverty, and identity: Latin American immigrant women in public housing. Family Relations, 57, 419–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Drewnowski, A., & Specter, S. E. (2004). Poverty and obesity: The role of energy density and energy costs. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79, 6–16.Google Scholar
  14. Dunifon, R., & Kowaleski-Jones, L. (2003). The influences of participation in the national school lunch program and food insecurity on child well-being. Social Service Review, 77, 72–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Evans, G. W., Lercher, P., & Kofler, W. W. (2002). Crowding and children’s mental health: The role of house type. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22, 221–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  17. Greder, K., Cook, C., Garaskey, S., Sano, Y., & Randall, B. (2008). Rural Latino immigrant families: Hunger, housing, and economic well-being. In R. L. Dalla, J. DeFrain, J. Johnson, & D. A. Abbott (Eds.), Strengths and challenges of new immigrant families: Implications for research, policy, education and service. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  18. Hernandez, D. C., & Ziol-Guest, K. M. (2009). Income volatility and family structure patterns: Association with stability and change in food stamp program participation. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 35, 357–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Housing Assistance Council(HAC). (1997). Rural housing and welfare reform: Housing Assistance Council 1997 report on the state of the nation’s rural housing. Washington, DC: HAC.Google Scholar
  20. Kaiser, L. H., Melgar-Quiñoz, C., Lamp, M., Johns, J. S., & Harwood, J. (2002). Food security and nutritional outcomes of preschool-age Latino-American children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 102, 924–929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kandel, W., & Newman, C. (2004). Rural Hispanics: Employment and residential trends. Amber Waves, 2(3), 38–45.Google Scholar
  22. Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. New York: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Long, S. K. (2003). Choosing among food, housing, and health insurance. No. B54 in Series, New Federalism: National Survey of America’s Families. Retrieved August 22, 2005, from
  24. March, E. L., Cook, C. T., & Ettinger de Cuba, S. (2009). Food insecurity rates rise steeply with recession. Children’s Healthwatch Policy Action Brief. Retrieved July 6, 2009, from
  25. Martin, K., Rogers, B., Cook, J., & Joseph, H. (2004). Social capital is associated with decreased risk of hunger. Social Science and Medicine, 58, 2645–2654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mazur, R., Marquis, G., & Jensen, H. H. (2003). Diet and food insufficiency among Hispanic youths: Acculturation and socioeconomic factors in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78, 1120–1127.Google Scholar
  27. McIntyre, L., Glanville, N. T., Raine, K. D., Dayle, J., Anderson, B., & Battaglia, N. (2003). Do low-income lone mothers compromise their nutrition to feed their children? Canadian Medical Association Journal, 168(6), 686–691.Google Scholar
  28. Menjivar, C. (2000). Fragmented ties: Salvadoran immigrant networks in America. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  29. Miles, M., & Huberman, A. (1994). Qualitative data analysis (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  30. Murphy, M., Wehler, C., Pagano, M., Little, M., Kleinman, R., & Jellinek, M. (1998). Relationship between hunger and psychosocial functioning in low-income American children. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 37, 163–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nord, M., Andrews, M., & Carlson, S. (2008). Household food security in the United States, 2007 (Economic Research Report No. 66). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  32. Olson, C. (2005). Food insecurity in women: A recipe for unhealthy trade-offs. Topics in Clinical Nutrition, 20(4), 321–328.Google Scholar
  33. Pader, E. (2002). Housing occupancy standards: Inscribing ethnicity and family relations on the land. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 19(4), 300–318.Google Scholar
  34. Parra-Cardona, J. R., Bulock, L. A., Imig, D. R., Villarruel, F. A., & Gold, S. J. (2006). “Trabajando Duro Todos Los Días”: Learning from the life experiences of Mexican-origin migrant families. Family Relations, 55, 361–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ploeg, M. V. (2009). Do benefits of U.S. food assistance programs for children spillover to older children in the same household? Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 30, 412–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Quandt, S., Shoaf, J. I., Tapia, J., Hernández-Pelletier, M., Clark, H. M., & Arcury, T. A. (2006). Experiences of Latino immigrant families in North Carolina help explain elevated levels of food insecurity and hunger. The Journal of Nutrition, 136, 2638–2644.Google Scholar
  37. Quinn, T. (2001). Housing issues of new Hispanic residents in Iowa. Retrieved September 8, 2003, from
  38. Sanders, C. K., & Porterfield, S. L. (2010). The ownership society and women: Exploring female householders’ ability to accumulate assets. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 31, 90–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sharfstein, J., Sandel, M., Kahn, R., & Bauchner, H. (2001). Is child health at risk while families wait for housing vouchers? American Journal of Public Health, 91(8), 1191–1192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Simmons, L. A., Braun, B., Wright, D. W., & Miller, S. R. (2007). Human capital, social support, and economic wellbeing among rural, low-income mothers: A latent growth curve analysis. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 28, 635–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stake, R. E. (2008). Qualitative case studies. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. Swanson, J. A., Olson, C. M., Miller, E. O., & Lawrence, F. C. (2008). Rural mothers’ use of formal programs and informal social supports to meet family food needs: A mixed methods study. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 29, 674–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Weber, B. A., Duncan, G. J., & Whitener, L. A. (2001). Welfare reform in rural America: What have we learned? American Journal of Agriculture Economics, 83, 1282–1292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weinreb, L., Wehler, C., Perloff, J., Scott, R., Hosmer, D., Sagor, L., et al. (2002). Hunger: Its impact on children’s health and mental health. Pediatrics, 110, e41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Yin, R. K. (1994). Case study research: Design and methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yoshie Sano
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steven Garasky
    • 2
  • Kimberly A. Greder
    • 2
  • Christine C. Cook
    • 2
  • Dawn E. Browder
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Human DevelopmentWashington State University VancouverVancouverUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

Personalised recommendations