Title

Children and Obesity in Low Income Families

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Presentation

Abstract

More than one-third of United States adults are obese and another third are overweight (Center for Disease Control 2013). At the same time one in seven households are food insecure (World Hunger 2010). Seemingly paradoxical, both hunger and obesity rates are higher in low-income populations (Lewis 2010). In both cases, however, the population lacks a healthy diet and malnutrition can manifest. A key factor of malnutrition is eating behaviors. Within low-come populations, children are most vulnerable to adapting poor eating behaviors as they are reliant on their family and school for nutrition. The consequences are also most severe; inhibiting proper health during development can lead to mental and physical impediments that last for life (Mandal 2011). While some studies have been conducted on eating behaviors among low-income populations and among children, research lacks examining the two together. For this reason I am researching eating behaviors of low-income children. To best understand the multitude of variables at play I am conducting a literature review on the subject and a qualitative research project of my own. In order to ensure that I would only be observing low-income children’s behaviors I choose to conduct my research at Head Start, a federal program that provides child developmental services to families below the poverty line (National Head Start Association 2012). With IRB approval I observed lunchtime of three to five year olds for a total of 15 hours. Through detailed ethnographic fieldnotes I described everything I observed, focusing on the children’s attitudes towards the food, length of time spent at the table, quantity and type of food eaten, and how the children interacted with each other. I will continue this research program in the summer and share my results with Missoula Head Start to improve their health and nutrition program in the fall.

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Children and Obesity in Low Income Families

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More than one-third of United States adults are obese and another third are overweight (Center for Disease Control 2013). At the same time one in seven households are food insecure (World Hunger 2010). Seemingly paradoxical, both hunger and obesity rates are higher in low-income populations (Lewis 2010). In both cases, however, the population lacks a healthy diet and malnutrition can manifest. A key factor of malnutrition is eating behaviors. Within low-come populations, children are most vulnerable to adapting poor eating behaviors as they are reliant on their family and school for nutrition. The consequences are also most severe; inhibiting proper health during development can lead to mental and physical impediments that last for life (Mandal 2011). While some studies have been conducted on eating behaviors among low-income populations and among children, research lacks examining the two together. For this reason I am researching eating behaviors of low-income children. To best understand the multitude of variables at play I am conducting a literature review on the subject and a qualitative research project of my own. In order to ensure that I would only be observing low-income children’s behaviors I choose to conduct my research at Head Start, a federal program that provides child developmental services to families below the poverty line (National Head Start Association 2012). With IRB approval I observed lunchtime of three to five year olds for a total of 15 hours. Through detailed ethnographic fieldnotes I described everything I observed, focusing on the children’s attitudes towards the food, length of time spent at the table, quantity and type of food eaten, and how the children interacted with each other. I will continue this research program in the summer and share my results with Missoula Head Start to improve their health and nutrition program in the fall.