Food insecurity is associated with detrimental physical, psychological, behavioral, social, and educational functioning in children and adults. Greater than one-quarter of all Hispanic households in the U.S. are food insecure. Hispanic families in the U.S. comprise 30% of households with food insecurity at the child level, the most severe form of the condition.
Food security discordance was evaluated among 50 Mexican-origin children ages 6–11 and their mothers living in Texas border colonias from March to June 2010. Mothers and children were interviewed separately using promotora-researcher administered Spanish versions of the Household Food Security Survey Module and the Food Security Survey Module for Youth. Cohen’s kappa statistic (κ) was used to analyze dyadic agreement of food security constructs and level of food security.
Eighty percent of mothers reported household food insecurity while 64% of children identified food insecurity at the child level. There was slight inter-rater agreement in food security status (κ = 0.13, p = 0.15). Poor agreement was observed on the child hunger construct (κ = −0.06, p = 0.66) with fair agreement in children not eating for a full day (κ = 0.26, p < 0.01) and relying on low-cost foods (κ = 0.23, p = 0.05).
Mother and child-reported household and child-level food insecurity among this sample of limited-resource Mexican-origin colonias residents far surpass national estimates. While the level of dyadic agreement was poor, discordance may be attributable to parental buffering, social desirability in responses, and/or the age of children included in the present analysis. Future research should continue to explore how food security is understood from the perspectives and experiences of children and adolescents.