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Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003 Aug;157(8):780-4.

Lower risk of overweight in school-aged food insecure girls who participate in food assistance: results from the panel study of income dynamics child development supplement.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, University of Tennessee, Knoxville 37996, USA.



A quarter of US children are at increased risk of obesity-related health problems because of excess weight. The few national studies of child overweight and inadequate household resources available to purchase healthy foods, or food insecurity, have shown inconsistent results. We hypothesized that the inconsistency in these results may be attributed to a differential effect of participation in food assistance programs in food secure and food insecure households.


Using the 1997 Panel Study of Income Dynamics Child Development Supplement, we compared the risk of a child aged 5 to 12 years being at or above the 85th percentile of body mass index for age in food insecure and food secure, low-income households when controlling for participation in the Food Stamp Program and the national school lunch and breakfast programs as well as other covariates.


We found that food insecure girls who participated in all 3 programs had a 68% reduced odds (odds ratio, 0.32; 95% confidence interval, 0.12-0.77) of being at risk of overweight when compared with food insecure girls in nonparticipating households and controlling for other factors. Girls in food secure households generally had no greater or less risk of overweight if they participated in any or all programs. Boys in both food insecure and food secure households had no greater or less risk of overweight by if they participated in any or all of the programs.


These results support our hypothesis that food assistance programs play a protective role for low-income children's health, particularly in girls in food insecure households.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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