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Food insecurity is both serious and difficult to address among young children,
but No Kid Hungry is committed to finding a solution.

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Hunger in Early Childhood
toddler holding an apple

Infants and children under age five are particularly vulnerable to the effects of hunger. Good nutrition is crucial during the rapid growth and development of early childhood. Food insecurity during early childhood is associated with poorer health, impaired learning and school readiness, and behavioral problems.

According to 2016 data from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, over 2.75 million households with children under the age of six struggled with consistent access to an adequate and healthy diet. That’s about one in six households with young children. The USDA data indicates that many of those families try to shield their children from the effects of food insecurity, with only about eight percent of households with young children experiencing reduced quality or quantity in their children’s diets.

However, research conducted by No Kid Hungry and APCO Insights suggests that the problem may actually be much more severe among low-income parents with young children. Our survey of low-income parents of children under six found that nearly two-thirds worried that their food would run out before they had money to buy more, and more than half (56 percent) reported running out of food. Just under half (46 percent) reported that they could not afford healthy meals for their children, and nearly one-third (29 percent) said that their child was not eating enough. 

Despite the need, it can be challenging to provide support to young children who have not yet started school, where they have access to breakfast, lunch, and potentially afterschool snacks or meals. However, two federal programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), have the potential to reach infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.

In addition, our Cooking Matters courses support families with young children by teaching parents and caregivers how to select and prepare nutritious, low-cost foods. Cooking Matters at the Store for WIC Parents teaches participants to get the most of their benefits through a free, guided grocery store tour.