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Public Health Nutr. 2007 Jun;10(6):544-51. Epub 2007 Mar 5.

Seasonal food insecurity and perceived social support in rural Tanzania.

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Population Studies and Training Center, Box 1836, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.



To examine whether the occurrence of seasonal food insecurity was related to ethnicity, household wealth and perceived social support, and to assess whether social support was more efficacious in protecting against food insecurity in wealthier households. Secondary objectives were to assess the association between past food insecurity, current dietary intake and perceived health.


A sample of 208 randomly selected mothers from two ethnic groups living in the same villages in rural Tanzania participated in a cross-sectional survey.


Food insecurity was highly prevalent in this area, particularly among the poorer ethnic group. Half of ethnically Sukuma households fell into the most food-secure category, compared with only 20% of ethnically Pimbwe households. Among both groups, measures of household wealth and social support were strongly associated with food security. Interestingly, social support appeared to be more effective among the wealthier ethnic group/community. Past food insecurity was also related to current indicators of dietary intake and women's self-perceptions of health.


Greater social support is associated with food security, suggesting that it may protect against the occurrence of seasonal food insecurity. Social support also interacts with wealth to offer greater protection against food insecurity, suggesting that increasing wealth at the community level may influence food insecurity through both direct and indirect means. Seasonal food insecurity also appears to have lasting effects that likely create and reinforce poverty.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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