Food insecurity, defined as limited or uncertain access to nutritious food because of a lack of resources, is a significant risk for many families with infants and toddlers. Early childhood is a critical period for a child’s physical growth and cognitive development, as well as a time when child-related expenses may be high. Food may be one of the first expenses families forgo when budgets are already stretched thin. Household food insecurity compromises young children’s physical growth and cognitive development both direction and indirectly—through a lack of nutrition and elevated psychological distress and poor health of adult caregivers.
In this fact sheet, we explore the extent to which families with young children continue to experience food insecurity through a unique data source, the Urban Institute’s Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey. Among parents of children younger than three, more than one in four (26.6 percent) reported experiencing food insecurity in the 12 months prior to the survey. Among low-income parents of children younger than three, this share increased to just over 50.9 percent. Respondents were surveyed in either or both the 2017 and 2018 survey rounds.
This fact sheet also highlights steps policymakers and providers can take to mitigate the impact of household food insecurity on families with infants and toddlers.