According to analysis of data from Hunger in America 2014, there are approximately 6.7 million youth ages 10 through 19 among the 46.5 million individuals who receive assistance from the Feeding America network each year. To date, limited research has focused on teens’ experience with food insecurity, while service providers often report challenges in reaching teens through existing child hunger programs.
The Teens and Hunger Project is a research collaborative between Feeding America and the Urban Institute aimed at better understanding the ways in which teens experience and cope with food insecurity in the United States, made possible through funding from the ConAgra Foods Foundation. It used qualitative methods – a series of focus group discussions with teens, ages 13-18, in 10 low-income communities across the country – to explore three key questions:
(1) How do teens experience food insecurity in their families and communities?
(2) What coping strategies, including risky behavior, do they use to survive?
(3) What are barriers to teen participation in the current food assistance programs, and how could teens be better engaged?
Findings are presented in two companion briefs. Bringing Teens to the Table: A Focus on Food Insecurity in America explores how teens view the food environment, their experiences with food insecurity in their households and communities, and the barriers to participating in food assistance programs. Impossible Choices: Teens and Food Insecurity in America provides a deeper look at the coping strategies teens use when faced with food insecurity, including those that may put them at long-term risk.
Themes that emerged from the focus groups include: