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      Children are aware of food insecurity and take responsibility for managing food resources.

      The Journal of Nutrition
      Adolescent, Adult, Child, Child Nutrition Sciences, Communication, Family, psychology, Family Characteristics, Female, Food, Food Supply, Humans, Hunger, Male, Poverty, Social Environment, South Carolina

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          Child food insecurity is measured using parental reports of children's experiences based on an adult-generated conceptualization. Research on other child experiences (e.g. pain, exposure to domestic violence) cautions that children generally best report their own experiences, and parents' reports of children's experiences may lack adequate validity and impede effective intervention. Because this may be true of child food insecurity, we conducted semistructured interviews with mothers, children (age 9-16 y), and other household adults in 26 South Carolina families at risk for food insecurity. Interview transcripts were analyzed using a constant comparative process combining a priori with inductive coding. Child interviews revealed experiences of food insecurity distinct from parent experiences and from parent reports of children's experiences. Children experienced cognitive, emotional, and physical awareness of food insecurity. Children took responsibility for managing food resources through participation in parental strategies, initiation of their own strategies, and generation of resources to provide food for the family. Adults were not always aware of children's experiences. Where adult experiences of food insecurity are conditioned on inadequate money for food, child experiences were grounded in the immediate household social and food environment: quality of child/parent interactions, parent affect and behavior, and types and quantities of foods made available for children to eat. The new, child-derived understanding of what children experience that results from this study provides a critical basis from which to build effective approaches to identify, assess, and respond to children suffering from food insecurity.

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