Exploring Food Insecurity Policy Through Multidimensional Poverty Measures

Lauren Toppenberg, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background: Food insecurity is a fact of life for millions of people in the United States. In 2015, 12.7% of Americans were considered food insecure, with 5% categorized as having very low food security. Rates in Texas were even worse: 15.4% of Texans were considered food insecure in 2015, and 6% had very low food security. Policy makers have historically perceived food insecurity as an issue of money, relying on income-based measurements of poverty to set food insecurity policy. However, income-based policy solutions to food insecurity have been unable to completely eliminate it despite the fact that there is more than enough food for every person in the United States. The objective of this analysis was to explore the relationships between food insecurity and the multidimensional poverty deprivations of health, education, standard of living, and housing in order to identify additional policy avenues for alleviating the burden of food insecurity in the United States. ^ Methods: This study consisted of a secondary analysis of cross-sectional data, utilizing five Ordinary Least Squares regression models to compare the predictive powers of different poverty measurements in explaining variance in food security scores of Texas households. Data for this study were collected by the US Census Bureau’s 2015 Current Population Survey-Food Security Supplement and analyzed using STATA 14 (College Station, Texas). ^ Results: Regression models using multidimensional deprivations in health, education, standard of living, and housing poverty explained more variance in household food security scores than a model using income-base poverty alone. Although all deprivations were significantly related to food security scores, employment status had a greater association with household food security scores than did poverty status. The number of deprivations a household experiences was also positively associated with household food insecurity, although the association did not proportionally increase with each additional deprivation. Finally, the significance and strength of relationships between the multidimensional deprivations and food security scores varied depending on whether a household was living below or above the federal poverty line. ^ Conclusion: While income-based poverty was confirmed as having a positive relationship with food insecurity, other poverty deprivations also had strong associations to food security scores. This underscores the importance of developing policy that assesses and addresses food insecurity from a multidimensional approach that includes not only poverty, but also other deprivations in health, education, employment, and housing as well. Findings from this study can be used to guide future food insecurity research, policy, and public health interventions by more efficiently identifying households at the greatest risk and targeting services based on household deprivation status.^

Subject Area

Public policy

Recommended Citation

Toppenberg, Lauren, "Exploring Food Insecurity Policy Through Multidimensional Poverty Measures" (2017). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10274522.