Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 706–712 | Cite as

Race Differences in Diet Quality of Urban Food-Insecure Blacks and Whites Reveals Resiliency in Blacks

  • Allyssa J. Allen
  • Marie Fanelli Kuczmarski
  • Michele K. Evans
  • Alan B. Zonderman
  • Shari R. Waldstein



Evidence from epidemiological studies shows a link between food insecurity and diet intake or quality. However, the moderating effect of race in this relation has not yet been studied.


Food insecurity (USDA Food Security Module) and diet quality (Healthy Eating Index-2010; HEI) were measured in 1741 participants from the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span (HANDLS) study. Data were collected from 2004 to 2009 and analyzed in 2014. Multivariable regression assessed the interaction of race and food insecurity on HEI scores, adjusting for age, sex, poverty status, single parent status, drug, alcohol and cigarette use, and comorbid diseases.


The interaction of food insecurity and race was significantly associated with diet quality (p = 0.001). In the absence of food insecurity, HEI scores were similar across race. However, with each food insecurity item endorsed, HEI scores were substantially lower for Whites compared to Blacks. An ad hoc analysis revealed that Blacks were more likely than Whites to participate in SNAP (p < 0.05). Further, race stratified analyses revealed that Blacks participating in SNAP showed diminished associations of food insecurity with diet quality.


Study findings provide the first evidence that the influence of food insecurity on diet quality may be potentiated for Whites, but not Blacks. Additionally, results show that Blacks are more likely to participate in SNAP and show attendant buffering of the effects of food insecurity on diet quality. These findings may have important implications for understanding how food insecurity affects diet quality differentially by race.


Food insecurity Diet quality Health disparities SNAP Food stamps Race Urban 



This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NIH grant 1 RO1AG034161 (A.B.Z. & M.K.E.).

Compliance with Ethical standards


This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health (NIH) (A.B.Z. & M.K.E.) and NIH grant 1 RO1AG034161 (S.R.W.).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the MedStar Institutional Review Board and NIH’s NIEHS Institutional Review Board, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allyssa J. Allen
    • 1
  • Marie Fanelli Kuczmarski
    • 2
    • 3
  • Michele K. Evans
    • 2
  • Alan B. Zonderman
    • 2
  • Shari R. Waldstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore CountyBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.National Institute on AgingBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of Behavioral Health and NutritionUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

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