Research by the Urban Institute and Feeding America® suggests teens facing hunger struggle with stigma and shame and assume adult responsibilities to get enough food for themselves and their families.
Teen food insecurity is threatening American youth and their well-being, according to two new reports by the Urban Institute and Feeding America. The reports reveal that low-income teens are aware of their parents’ struggles and often share in their worries and efforts to protect the youngest and most vulnerable members of the household by shielding younger siblings from hunger. Teens engage in various coping strategies to deal with food scarcity, including risky and potentially dangerous behaviors.
Nearly seven million children ages 10-17 struggle with hunger in America. While there is significant literature on food insecurity and children, most of this research has focused on the risks to and impact on children under age 6. This new research examines several topics related to the impact of food insecurity in teens’ lives.
The findings are based on focus group conversations with 193 13-18 year olds in 10 communities across the country and are presented through two reports. The first report, Bringing Teens to the Table, by Elaine Waxman, Susan J. Popkin, and Martha Galvez, explores how teens help their families acquire food during financially challenging times; their experiences with school, summer, and charitable feeding programs; and the ideas teens have for addressing food insecurity in their communities. The second report, Impossible Choices: Teens and Food Insecurity in America, by Popkin, Galvez, and Molly Scott, takes a deeper look at coping strategies teens use when facing food insecurity. Those strategies include engaging in criminal activity or transactional dating relationships that can allow desperate teens to secure food and other resources they need to get by.
Key findings from the reports include the following:
Teens in the focus groups shared their ideas about ways programs could improve to better reach teens in need, and the Urban Institute and Feeding America have been engaging teens in Portland, Oregon, to design and launch a pilot program to reduce stigma and increase teens’ access to food.
Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, which annually provides free meals and groceries to more than 46 million people (or 1 in 7 Americans), including 12 million children and seven million seniors. The study is supported by ConAgra Foods Foundation.
To access the Bringing Teens to the Table report, visit http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/our-research/teen-hunger-research. To access the Impossible Choices: Teens and Food Insecurity in America report, visit http://apps.urban.org/features/food-insecurity.
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Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.