Teen Hunger

Addressing Teen Hunger is a collection of research and programmatic insights about food insecurity among teens and ways that food banks and other organizations are working to serve teens.

 While there is extensive research about food insecurity among children, limited research has focused on teenagers' lived experiences with food insecurity. 

Supported by the ConAgra Foods Foundation, Feeding America partnered with the Urban Institute to better understand how teens experience and cope with food insecurity in the United States. The research collaboration used mixed methods, including a series of focus group discussions with teens, ages 13-18, in 10 low-income communities across the country. The engagement also included participatory action research, as teens in one community were engaged to design and assess a program to better address teen food insecurity. 

Addressing Teen Hunger (Released 2021) 

This report report includes: 

  • A recap of findings from Bringing Teens to the Table (see below) 

  • A summary of research findings of food insecurity among teens from the broader research literature 

  • Information and learnings from a community-based participatory research effort that engaged teens in a community in Portland, OR, to design and implement programming to better address hunger among their peers 

  • Food bank spotlights of the innovative ways that five Feeding America member food banks are working with and for teens experiencing food insecurity, including how they have adapted programming since COVID-19 

  • A spotlight about how the YMCA, a national partner, used insights from Feeding America's research to adapt their teen hunger programming 

Focus Group Research (Released 2016)

Findings from focus groups conducted with teens in 10 communities across the country are presented in two 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.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Teens are active participants in family food acquisition and management strategies. 
  • Teens fear stigma around hunger and actively hide it as much as they can.
  • Food-insecure teens strategize about how to mitigate their hunger and make food last longer for the whole family.
  • Although parents try to protect teens from hunger and from bearing responsibility for providing for themselves or others, teens in food-insecure families also routinely take on this role.
  • SNAP is an important source of support for many families, and benefits are valued because they allow households to acquire food by shopping in mainstream retail settings.
  • Teens have a lot of opinions about school meal programs and ideas about how to strengthen them.
  • Teens would overwhelmingly prefer to earn money through a legitimate job.
  • When faced with acute food insecurity, teens said that youth may engage in risky behavior.