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J Am Diet Assoc. 2002 Jul;102(7):924-9.

Food security and nutritional outcomes of preschool-age Mexican-American children.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California at Davis, 95616, USA.



To examine the relationship of food insecurity to nutrition of Mexican-American preschoolers.


Cross-sectional survey of low-income Mexican-American families with children of preschool age (3 to 6 years). Data included food security using the Radimer/ Cornell scale; acculturation; parental education; monthly income; past experience of food insecurity; and child weight, height, and frequency of consuming 57 foods. Weight-for-height z scores (WHZ), height- for-age z (HAZ) scores, and the percentage of overweight (> or = 85th percentile WHZ) were calculated.


A convenience sample of Mexican-American families (n=211) was recruited through Head Start, Healthy Start, Migrant Education, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children in Tulare, Fresno, Monterey, and Kern counties in California. Statistical analyses Analysis of variance, t tests, Spearman's correlations, and Mantel Haenszel chi2.


Limited education, lack of English proficiency, and low income were negatively correlated with food security (r = -0.31 to -0.44, P<.0001). After controlling for acculturation, children in severely food-insecure households were less likely to meet Food Guide Pyramid guidelines than other children (median number of food groups > or = recommended levels [interquartile range]: 2.0 (2.0) vs 3.0 (2.0), P<.006). Although WHZ (mean +/- SD = 1.28 +/- 1.80) and percent overweight (48%, N=19) tended to peak among children from household level food insecure families, no significant differences were found in weight or height status of children by level of food insecurity.


Dietetics professionals working with low-income Hispanic-American families should screen for different levels of food insecurity to determine needs for nutrition education and other services.

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