Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Epidemiology and Biostatistics


Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health

First Advisor

Angela Liese


Purpose: Food insecurity is a major public health problem in the United States (US) with 14.5% of US households having experienced some level of food insecurity in 2012. Among households with children, 20% experienced low food security in 2012, and in half of these households, both the children and adults were affected. Food insecurity among children can have lifelong negative health and mental effects. Life events are defined as self-­‐reported life changes, which create a strain on resources and an opportunity for food insecurity, Methods: The Midlands Family Study (MFS) was a cross-­‐ sectional study that surveyed households with children within an eight-­‐county region in South Carolina between March 2012 and May 2013 and obtained information on food security and life events. Of 538 total participants, 511 remained for analysis: 28% were food secure (FS), 37.2% were low food secure (LFS), and 34.1% experienced very low food security among children (VLFS-­‐C). Life events were analyzed by overall positive and negative count and summed impact, and four life event types were created with author consensus to analyze positive and negative life event counts and summed impact by event type. Results: VLFS-­‐C and LFS participants reported experiencing more negative life events, and greater summed impact of negative life events compared to FS participants. Higher count and impact of negative life events are associated with risk for VLFS-­‐C and LFS status. When testing for independent associations of specific event types with food security status, positive events involving family and relationships were associated with decreased odds of food insecurity. Conclusion: Experiencing a higher number of negative life events, as well as perceiving those events as having a greater impact, is associated with higher odds of VLFS-­‐C and LFS status among the MFS study population. Although most types of positive life events were not associated with food security status, events involving family and other relationships had a negative association with food insecurity. Thus, interventions against food insecurity should be targeted at establishing and strengthening positive familial, community and social relationships.

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