Research Original Research: Brief| Volume 119, ISSUE 10, P1732-1737, October 2019

Food Insecurity Is Associated with Body Dissatisfaction among Children in California

Published:September 01, 2018DOI:



      Food insecurity affects 13 million children in the United States. Body dissatisfaction is also prevalent, affecting up to 46% of children. Both food insecurity and body dissatisfaction are associated with poor health outcomes, and both are associated with body weight and racial/ethnic disparities. The association between food insecurity and body dissatisfaction among children has not been examined.


      The purpose of this study was twofold: to examine, in a sample of children in grades 4 through 8, the relationship of child food insecurity with body dissatisfaction and to gain an understanding of the interactive roles of body mass index (BMI), race/ethnicity, and sex in the relationship between food insecurity and body dissatisfaction.


      This was a cross-sectional study.


      This study examined data obtained from 14,768 children in grades 4 through 8 from 54 public schools in California between 2014 and 2016.

      Main outcome measures

      The primary outcome of interest was body dissatisfaction (five items converted to a binary indicator), and the exposure of interest was child-reported food insecurity (three items converted to a binary indicator). Subsets of validated questionnaires were used to assess body dissatisfaction and food insecurity.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Data were analyzed using multivariable logistic regression, and effect modification was examined by BMI category (underweight, normal, overweight, obese), race/ethnicity, and sex.


      In this large and diverse sample, after adjusting for cofounders, children experiencing food insecurity, in all BMI categories and from all racial/ethnic backgrounds, had higher odds of body dissatisfaction than their food-secure counterparts. The strength of the relationship differed by BMI and race/ethnicity, with the strongest associations observed for African-American children (odds ratio=2.32; P<0.001) and children with a normal children (odds ratio=1.76; P<0.001).


      Experiencing food insecurity was associated with greater body dissatisfaction, with the magnitude of the association modified by BMI and race/ethnicity.


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      E. A. Altman is a graduate student, University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, Berkeley.


      K. A. Madsen is an associate professor, University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, Berkeley.


      L. D. Ritchie is director and cooperative extension specialist, Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Oakland.


      E. A. Frongillo is a professor, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia.