Ethnic differences in food availability at home among 3–5 year old preschoolers attending Head Start centers in 2008

Larissa M Loufman, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. The childhood obesity epidemic has disproportionately impacted the lives of low-income, minority preschoolers and their families. Research shows that parents play a major role as "gatekeepers" who control what food is brought into the home and as role models for dietary practices. Currently, there is limited research regarding ethnic differences in families of low-income preschoolers. Objective. The objective of this study was to look at ethnic differences in food availability at home among the low-income families of Hispanic and African American preschoolers attending Head Start centers in Harris County, Texas. Design/Subjects. Descriptive data on food availability at home between Hispanic and African American families were used and analyzed for this study. Parents or primary caregivers (n = 718) of children enrolled at Head Start Centers in Houston, Texas completed the Healthy Home Survey. Methods. In the Healthy Home Survey, participants were asked to answer open-ended questions regarding various types of foods currently available at home, such as fresh, canned or jarred, dried and frozen fruits; fresh, canned or jarred, and frozen vegetables; salty snacks, sweet snacks, candy, and soda. Descriptive analyses were conducted to identify significant differences between Hispanics and African Americans via a paired t-test to compare the means of variables between the study groups and a Pearson's chi-square or Fischer's exact (if cell size was <5) test calculated for food availability (food types) between ethnicities to determine differences in distributions. Results. Although both Hispanics and African Americans reported having all categories of food types at home, there were statistically significant differences between ethnic groups. Hispanics were more likely to have fresh fruits and vegetables at home than African Americans. At the same time, more African American families reported having canned or jarred fruits and canned green/leafy vegetables than Hispanics. More Hispanic families reported having diet, regular, and both diet and regular sodas available compared to African American families. However, high percentages of unhealthy foods (including snacks and candy) were reported by both ethnicities. Conclusions. The findings presented in this study indicate the implicit ethnic differences that exist in the food availability among low-income families of Hispanic and African American preschoolers. Future research should investigate the associations between food availability and children's weight status by ethnicity to identify additional differences that may exist.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Nutrition

Recommended Citation

Loufman, Larissa M, "Ethnic differences in food availability at home among 3–5 year old preschoolers attending Head Start centers in 2008" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1515597.