Measuring Chronic Food Insecurity with Food Bank User Data: Implications for Gender Disparities in Chronic Health
Sherwood, Andrew J.
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Food insecurity is a key social determinant of health and an important risk factor in numerous health conditions. Evidence indicates that food insecurity impacts men and women differently with women experiencing higher rates of reported food insecurity and a higher correlation of that insecurity with chronic health conditions like diabetes and obesity. One possible explanation for this difference could be that women are more likely to find themselves in a chronic, predictable state of food insecurity while the male experience is more likely to be unpredictable and transient. Yet, the traditional reliance of food security research on the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement has limited the investigation of these temporal dynamics. Using food bank usage as a proxy for food insecurity, the cumulative number of food bank appearances and the average interval between appearances were compared between men and women. Multivariate ordinary least squares regression analyses were performed, and after controlling for family size and composition, access to food bank services, and socio-economic estimates, households headed by women were found to have significantly longer average intervals, and after controlling for average interval length, more cumulative visits to the food bank. Taken together, these facts suggest that female-headed households are more likely to experience chronic food insecurity.