How do children perceive and understand the experience of household food insecurity? A narrative review of the literature

Stefania Velardo, Kristen Stevens, Michelle Watson, Christina Pollard, John Coveney, Jessica Shipman, Sue Booth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Children's food insecurity experiences are largely unrepresented in academic literature. Parents and caregivers cannot always accurately evaluate their children's attitudes or experiences, and even within the same family unit, children and their parents may report differing views and experiences of family food insecurity. The purpose of this narrative review is to identify studies that include children's voices and their perceptions, understanding, and experience of food insecurity in the household. 

Design/methodology/approach: This narrative review aimed to address the following questions: (1) “What research studies of household food insecurity include children's voices?” and (2) “Across these studies, how do children perceive, understand and experience food insecurity in the household?”. A database search was conducted in October 2022. After inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied, 16 articles remained for review. 

Findings: The findings from this review were organised into three themes: Theme 1: Ways children coped with accessing food or money for food; Theme 2: Food-related strategies children used to avoid hunger; and Theme 3: Children attempt to mask food insecurity. 

Research limitations/implications: Future research should further explore the long-term consequences of social pressures and informal economic engagement on children's well-being and social development. By addressing the social determinants of food insecurity, this study can strive to create supportive environments that enable all children to access adequate nutrition and thrive. 

Social implications: Overall, the findings of this review demonstrate the significant social pressures that shape children's responses to food insecurity. Results suggest that children's decision-making processes are influenced by the desire to maintain social standing and avoid the negative consequences of being food insecure. As such, this review underscores the need for a comprehensive understanding of the social context in which food insecurity occurs and the impact it has on children's lives. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for developing effective interventions and policies addressing the multifaceted challenges food insecure children face. 

Originality/value: This review has highlighted a need for interventions to incorporate trauma-informed strategies to protect children from and respond to the psychologically distressing experiences and impact of living in food insecure households.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1698-1724
Number of pages27
JournalBritish Food Journal
Issue number4
Early online date23 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2024


  • Children
  • Children's voices
  • Food insecurity
  • Shame
  • Stigma


Dive into the research topics of 'How do children perceive and understand the experience of household food insecurity? A narrative review of the literature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this