Epidemiology and Pathophysiology of Food Insecurity

  • Kofi EsselEmail author
  • Kelly A. Courts
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Public Health book series (BRIEFSPUBLIC)


This chapter outlines the history of food insecurity (FI) in the United States. In so doing, key terminology is introduced and defined. The discussion extends to currently available and used FI measurement tools. Moreover, at-risk populations, and health outcomes of relevance to FI provide the reader with a baseline understanding for future screening, intervention, management, and advocacy. Specifically, FI is positioned, in this chapter, as a significant social determinant of health (SDH), one that affects 1 in 8 U.S. households; 1 in 6 with children. FI prevalence is highest amongst low income households, but nearly 25% of households with children experiencing FI have incomes >185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Any household with children is at higher risk for FI. Other households with a high prevalence of FI include those headed by single parents and those led by ethnic or racial minorities. Children, families, and households that experience hardships like FI also frequently experience related physical health, mental health, psychosocial, developmental, and academic challenges. Clinicians must be aware of the prevalence and significance of FI to provide better care and to more effectively meet the needs of their patients and families.


Food Insecurity Social Determinants of Health Obesity Paradox Poverty 



Annual Social and Economic Supplement (report)


Current Population Survey


Department of Health and Human Services


Food Insecurity


Federal Poverty Level


Household Food Security Survey Module


Life Sciences Research Office


National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey


National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act


Social Determinants of Health


United States Department of Agriculture


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Children’s National Health SystemThe George Washington University School of Medicine & Health SciencesWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Drexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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