Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Health Promotion, Education and Behavior

First Advisor

Sonya J Jones


The social context of mealtime---defined as the social interactions and practices during mealtime---plays an important role in children's diet. Household food insecurity disrupts or causes worry about the household food supply, and therefore may negate the positive effect of the social context of meals; however, little research has examined household food security and the social context of mealtime. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between various aspects of the social context of mealtime---dietary modeling, parenting style, eating together, mealtime screen time, and priority and atmosphere of mealtime---and dietary quality among children within food-insecure households. The results of this study indicate that food-insecure households engage in many of the positive aspects related to the social context of meals, but the protective associations related children's diet are not always seen. Our study also shows that the dietary quality of our sample of food-insecure children is severely lacking, even compared to other low-income children. Intervention and policy efforts that target improved dietary quality among children within food-insecure households should consider the social context of mealtime. To achieve the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) goal of eliminating very low food security (VLFS), a better understanding of the factors that distinguish VLFS from low food security (LFS) is needed. Historical and contemporary racial discrimination produce inequalities in housing, education, and food access, which all can decrease food security; yet, the association between racial discrimination and food security has not been explicitly examined. Using theories of racial segregation and discrimination, we investigated the association between lifetime racial discrimination and food security status. Greater reports of lifetime racial discrimination were associated with lower food security, after adjusting for demographic confounders. The U.S. government and others have called for strategies that increase food security. Our analysis suggests that preventing racial discrimination will increase food security among African-American households with children.

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