Presentation Title

The importance of food security in promoting positive mental well-being in middle school students

Project Collaborators

Bernice Garnett, Jane Kolodinsky, Weiwei Wang

Time

11:00 AM

Location

Silver Maple Ballroom - Food & Environmental Sciences

Abstract

Food insecurity (FI), defined as the lack of consistent access to sufficient food for a healthy and active lifestyle, affected 6.5 million American children in 2017. Numerous studies have found that negative physical and mental health outcomes are associated with food deprivation. However, there is a gap in the existing literature regarding how social factors can alleviate or exacerbate the relationship between food insecurity and mental health outcomes in middle school-aged children. Using a census of public middle school-aged children, we aim to conceptualize the dynamic socio-ecological factors within adolescents’ environments impacting their experience of food insecurity and related mental health, leading to suicide ideation and hopelessness.

Data are from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBSS), conducted state-wide by the Vermont Department of Health and administered to all MS students in public school (N=13,648). The YRBSS is a mandatorily administered survey across the U.S. Questions were asked about food insecurity, suicidal thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, perceptions of teaching and community care, physical activity, breakfast consumption, and demographics. Bivariate and cross-tabular analyses were conducted in SPSS, and regressions and Sobel tests were conducted in STATA.

Results show that FI increases the likelihood of suicidal ideation and hopelessness in students. Further, students who felt included in their community, and those who ate breakfast regularly, had lower instances of suicide ideation and hopelessness. This research helps to expand the current knowledge base around the connections between food insecurity and indicators of students’ social and mental wellness and contributes to the strengthening of research and policy.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Lizzy Pope

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Program/Major

Dietetics, Nutrition and Food Sciences

Primary Research Category

Food & Environment Studies

Secondary Research Category

Health Sciences

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The importance of food security in promoting positive mental well-being in middle school students

Food insecurity (FI), defined as the lack of consistent access to sufficient food for a healthy and active lifestyle, affected 6.5 million American children in 2017. Numerous studies have found that negative physical and mental health outcomes are associated with food deprivation. However, there is a gap in the existing literature regarding how social factors can alleviate or exacerbate the relationship between food insecurity and mental health outcomes in middle school-aged children. Using a census of public middle school-aged children, we aim to conceptualize the dynamic socio-ecological factors within adolescents’ environments impacting their experience of food insecurity and related mental health, leading to suicide ideation and hopelessness.

Data are from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBSS), conducted state-wide by the Vermont Department of Health and administered to all MS students in public school (N=13,648). The YRBSS is a mandatorily administered survey across the U.S. Questions were asked about food insecurity, suicidal thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, perceptions of teaching and community care, physical activity, breakfast consumption, and demographics. Bivariate and cross-tabular analyses were conducted in SPSS, and regressions and Sobel tests were conducted in STATA.

Results show that FI increases the likelihood of suicidal ideation and hopelessness in students. Further, students who felt included in their community, and those who ate breakfast regularly, had lower instances of suicide ideation and hopelessness. This research helps to expand the current knowledge base around the connections between food insecurity and indicators of students’ social and mental wellness and contributes to the strengthening of research and policy.