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The Household &
Social Development

Access to healthy food impacts young children’s social development, including their relationships with each other and with caregivers inside and outside the home. If access to healthy food is compromised for both caregiver and child, this can have significant repercussions on the quality of the attachment formed. Quality of attachment in children’s early years also has profound effects on their future relationships. Additionally, food insecurity may affect the relationship between peers as it has shown to be correlated with body dissatisfaction in primary school children. As such, federally-funded programs such as the CACFP must be integrated into more early child care settings to ensure that young children develop healthy social relationships through food security. 

Healthy assortment of yellow foods

Child - Adult Interactions

Because hunger may enhance early childhood educators’ implicit biases, their early experiences of food insecurity could affect the quality of attachment they form with young children. The quality of early attachment influences the child’s future social and emotional development (Swindle et al., 2016).

CACFP is shown to decrease in household food insecurity for participating children. CACFP may help alleviate demands on household food supply as parents do not need to send food to the care setting with their children (Heflin et al., 2015).


Heflin, C., Arteaga, I., & Gable, S. (2015). The child and adult care food program and food insecurity. Social Service Review, 89(1), 77-98.

Swindle, T. M., Ward, W. L., Bokony, P., & Whiteside-Mansell, L. (2016). A Cross-Sectional Study of Early Childhood Educators’ Childhood and Current Food Insecurity and Dietary Intake. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 13(1), 40-54.

Child to Child Interactions

Food insecurity has powerful effects on the cognitive-emotional development of children and it has even been demonstrated to affect self-image visualization. Children who have experienced food insecurity have a poorer self-image compared to their counterparts (Altman et al., 2019). 

Food insecurity can coincide with a variety of different mental disorders from family members, including maternal depression. These outside factors compounded with the looming stress of food insecurity lead to elevated rates of children’s behavioral problems (Melchior et al., 2009). 

Altman, E. A., Ritchie, L. D., Frongillo, E. A., & Madsen, K. A. (2019). Food Insecurity Is Associated with Body Dissatisfaction among Children in California. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 119(10), 1732–1737. 

Melchior, M., Caspi, A., Howard, L. M., Ambler, A. P., Bolton. H., Mountain, N., Moffitt T. E. (2009). Mental health context of food insecurity: A representative cohort of families with young children. Pediatrics, 124(4), e564-72.

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