Effects of food insecurity on mental and behavioral health:

  • Infants face insecure attachment and less advanced mental proficiency at 24 months
  • Children are likely to repeat a grade, be absent, tardy, experience anxiety, aggression, poor math and reading scores and psycho-social dysfunction
  • Adolescents are more likely to have behavioral problems that can lead to depressive disorder and thoughts of suicide
  • Adults express feelings of “anguish and despair; [such] as anxiety, resignation, hopelessness and shame” due to stress and the inability to access food
  • Seniors are 60 percent more likely to experience depression than their food secure peers

Food insecure children are:

  • 1.5 times more likely to show signs of aggression or hyperactivity
  • 1.5 times more likely to experience anxiety, depression and/or withdrawal
  • 1.6 times more likely to miss days of school
  • 2 times more likely to repeat a grade

Food insecure teens are:

  • 2.3 times more likely to have mental health problems as reported by parents
  • 4 times more likely to have dysthymia (persistent depression)
  • 5 times more likely to have attempted suicide

Hunger in children can lead to increased rates of mental illness especially depression. The stress of unstable food access can affect social skills and academic performance.

Food assistance programs reduce food insecurity and its negative impacts:

  • SNAP benefits have been shown to reduce the risk of developmental delays in children by 16 percent
  • Food insecure households that receive SNAP benefits are less likely to be exposed to symptoms of maternal depression after the birth of a new child
  • “Children whose mothers participated in WIC while pregnant scored higher on assessments of mental development at age 2 than similar children whose mothers did not participate”
  • “The risk of post-partum household food insecurity among the most at-risk mothers… was about one-third lower if they enrolled in WIC in the first trimester of their pregnancy rather than the third”
  • Children enrolled in the School Breakfast Program have been shown to have increased academic performance and reduce behavioral issues
  • Research shows home delivered meals for seniors improves physical and mental health, and the meals and visits ensure elderly independence is maintained

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