What predicts food insecurity? An online survey

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What predicts food insecurity? An online surveyBackgroundFood poverty (inability to afford or access a healthy diet) is a public health emergency, manifesting as a short-term dilemma of accessing food alongside longer-term effects of relying on poor nutritional quality foods to satiate hunger and worrying about food running out due to lack of money. Enquiring about food poverty experiences can predict what factors might predispose people to this condition. MethodsAn online survey (September-November 2018) measured food poverty experiences alongside demographics and self-reported health evaluation (n=944 respondents). A snowball sampling technique was employed and promoted by the researchers and stakeholders acting as gatekeepers on social media. Complementary paper surveys provided remote access to the research. Inclusion criteria required respondents be the primary householder/main earner (aged 18+).A binary logistic regression tested if age (18-25 … 66+ years), gender (male/female/other), location (urban/rural), household size, number of children (<18 years), income, home ownership status (owned/rented), employment (un/employed), education and self-reported health status predicted worry about running out of food in the past 12 months (FAO’s Food Insecurity Experience Scale). Ethical approval was granted, and informed consent sought.FindingsUn-weighted case summaries indicated slightly more males (51.8%), and one in five (21.3%) respondents were economically inactive. Eight percent had a total annual household income <£10,000. One in 14 (7.4%) self-reported poor health status. Two-fifths (41.9%) had children living at home. Importantly, 24% of the sample worried about food running out. The model (χ2=(10, N=944) 155.158, p=.000) significantly distinguished between households that were and weren’t food poor. Food poor households were 2.10 times more likely where respondents self-reported poorer health status (p=.000; 95% CI=1.61-2.72) and 1.52 times more likely if they had more children (p=.001; 95% CI=1.20-1.93); but food poverty was less likely where respondents are older (OR=.73; p=.007; 95% CI=.58-.92), own their property (OR=.45; p=.008; 95% CI=.25-.81) and have higher household incomes (OR=.74; p=.001; 95% CI=.62-.88). Remaining predictors were non-significant.InterpretationPersonal and household circumstances can predict food poverty. Given future public health consequences, these predictors could usefully inform targeted interventions for risk profiling vulnerable citizens.Word count: 344 words
Funding: Ulster University Civic Impact Research Fund - an internal research award that funded the data collection, analysis and raffle prize for recruitment incentives.Authors’ contributions: All authors participated in the design of and data collection for the study. The first and second authors jointly analyzed these data and drafted the manuscript. All authors critically reviewed and approved the final manuscript submitted for publication.Competing interests: None
Original languageEnglish
Article numberTHELANCET-D-19-03790R1
Pages (from-to)41
Number of pages1
Issue numberS41
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 28 Nov 2019


  • Food poverty
  • food insecurity
  • Prediction modelling


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