Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Hunger in young children of Mexican immigrant families

Margaret Kerseya1 c1, Joni Gepperta1 and Diana B Cuttsa1

a1 Department of Pediatrics, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN 55415, USA


Objective To measure rates of hunger and food insecurity among young US-born Latino children with Mexican immigrant parents (Latinos) compared with a non-immigrant non-Latino population (non-Latinos) in a low-income clinic population.

Design, setting and subjects A repeated cross-sectional survey of 4278 caregivers of children < 3 years of age in the paediatric clinic of an urban county hospital for a 5-year period from 1998 to 2003. A total of 1310 respondents had a US-born child with at least one parent born in Mexico. They were compared with a reference group comprised of non-Latino US-born participants (n = 1805). Child hunger and household food insecurity were determined with the US Household Food Security Scale.

Results Young Latino children had much higher rates of child hunger than non-Latinos, 6.8 versus 0.5%. Latino families also had higher rates of household food insecurity than non-Latinos, 53.1 versus 15.6%. Latino children remained much more likely to be hungry (odds ratio (OR) = 13.0, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 5.9–28.7, P < 0.01) and in household food-insecure households (OR = 6.6, 95% CI = 5.2–8.3, P < 0.01) than non-Latinos after controlling for the following variables in multivariate analysis: child's age, sex, maternal education level, single-headed household status, family size, young maternal age ( < 21 years), food stamp programme participation, TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or ‘welfare’) programme participation and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) usage, and reason for clinic visit (sick visit versus well-child).

Conclusion Young children in Mexican immigrant families are at especially high risk for hunger and household food insecurity compared with non-immigrant, non-Latino patients in a low-income paediatric clinic.

(Received November 16 2005)

(Accepted October 11 2006)


c1 *Corresponding author: Email