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Children and Families

Although the effects of food insecurity can be harmful to anyone, they can be particularly devastating for children. Proper nutrition, particularly in the first three years of life, is important for establishing a good foundation as it has implications for a child’s future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that threatens this critical foundation.

Child Food Insecurity is a Health Problem  

  • Children ages 0 to 3 who face food insecurity often cannot learn as much, as fast or as well, because chronic under-nutrition and toxic stress harm their cognitive development during this critical period of development. Food insecurity can actually change the fundamental neurological architecture of their brain and central nervous system.
  • Children facing food insecurity are sick more often, and more likely to be hospitalized.
  • They can suffer growth impairment that precludes them from reaching their full physical potential.
  • They can incur developmental impairments that limit their physical, intellectual and emotional development.

Child Food Insecurity is an Educational Problem 

  • Children facing food insecurity often do worse in school. Food insecurity negatively affects their ability to concentrate and achieve academically.
  • Children facing food insecurity often struggle with social and behavioral problems. Without proper nutrition, they have less energy for complex social interactions, cannot effectively adapt to environmental stress and often feel physically unwell.

Child Food Insecurity is a Workforce and Job Readiness Problem 

  • Workers who experienced childhood food insecurity often face physical, mental, emotional and social disadvantages to performing effectively on the job.
  • With its devastating effects, child food insecurity in the U.S. threatens the talent, skill and efficiency of a large portion (currently 13 million people) of America’s future workforce [i].


Feeding America® Child Hunger Strategy

The long-term vision of Feeding America’s Child Hunger Strategy is to reduce food insecurity among households with children. Our focus is on reaching children where they are and during the times they are most likely to face food insecurity. Because low-income children often receive free or reduced-price meals during school, we pinpoint our efforts on reaching kids when school is out. This includes after-school, on weekends and during summer vacation.

In addition to supporting traditional food pantries, SNAP application assistance and summer food programs can help during this time, Feeding America also operates three national program models specifically designed to reach children with food when they need it most: BackPack, School Pantry and Kids Cafe.

Learn more about our child feeding programs and how to get involved.


  1. Cook J, Jeng K. (2009). Child food insecurity: the economic impact on our nation. Retrieved from Share our Strength website: https://www.nokidhungry.org/sites/default/files/child-economy-study.pdf