Submitted to: Journal of Rural Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/1/2003
Publication Date: 4/1/2004
Citation: Stuff, J.E., Horton, J.A., Bogle, M.L., Connell, C., Ryan, D., Zaghloul, S., Thornton, A., Simpson, P., Gossett, J., Szeto, K. 2004. High prevalence of food insecurity and hunger in households in the rural Lower Mississippi Delta. Journal of Rural Health. 20(2):173-180. Interpretive Summary: Household food insecurity is interpreted to mean that the household is unable to get adequate food sufficient to meet basic needs due to inadequate household resources. Food insecurity often results in some individuals going hungry. Food insecurity and hunger impact the nutritional and health status of individuals, especially children and other groups at high risk. Recent data from national surveys indicate that approximately 10% of the population is food insecure. In the national survey, AR, LA, and MS ranked among the highest percentages of households with food insecurity: 13%, 13%, and 14% respectively, with 5%, 4%, and 4% of these households reporting hunger as well. This paper presents data from a sample of households (1662) in the Lower Mississippi Delta (LMD) of AR, LA, and MS, which were surveyed by telephone in 2000. The results were striking: average household food insecurity in the area was 21% or double the rate for US households in 1999. Of these food insecure households, approximately 7% also reported hunger, which is twice the rate in the US. Black households, households with incomes less than $15,000, and those with children were much more likely to be food insecure and to be hungry. Further study is being conducted as to the causes of food insecurity in the LMD. Nutrition intervention strategies are being developed to impact food insecurity and hunger in this region.
Technical Abstract: Context: Residents of the Lower Mississippi Delta of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi are at risk for food insecurity since a high proportion of the population live in households with incomes below the poverty level and have reduced access to food and decreased availability of a variety of foods. However, the magnitude of the problem is unknown because presently only nationwide and state estimates of food insecurity are available. Purpose: This study was conducted by the Lower Mississippi Delta Nutrition Intervention Research Consortium to determine the prevalence of household food insecurity, identify high-risk subgroups in the Lower Delta, and compare to national data. Methods: A 2-stage stratified cluster sample representative of the population in 36 counties in the Lower Delta was selected using list-assisted random digit dialing telephone methodology. A cross-sectional telephone survey of 1662 households was conducted in 18 of the 36 counties using the US Food Security Survey Module. Findings: Twenty-one percent of Lower Delta households were food insecure, double the 2000 nationwide rate of 10.5%. Within the Lower Delta, groups with the highest rates of food insecurity were households with income below $15,000, black households, and households with children. The prevalence of hunger in Delta households with white children was 3.2% and in households with black children was 11.0%, compared to nationwide estimates of 0.3% and 1.6%. Conclusions: The Lower Mississippi Delta is characterized by a high prevalence of food insecurity and hunger. Future efforts to identify the household and community determinants of food insecurity to reduce its high prevalence are indicated.