WithAll Blog


Unveiling the Connection: How Food Insecurity Impacts Eating Habits in Kids and Teens

May 5, 2024

Tatyana Bidopia
Raising kids comes with a whirlwind of challenges, from tackling homework meltdowns to figuring out the best snacks for picky eaters. But, what happens when something as fundamental as putting food on the table becomes uncertain? How does food insecurity affect our kids’ relationships with food?

A recent dive into this topic reveals significant relationships between food insecurity and children’s eating behaviors. Studies have found that during periods of food scarcity, kids are more likely to struggle with binge eating or feel out of control around food. It’s like a seesaw – when food is scarce, they might overcompensate by overeating when it’s available again. This back-and-forth phenomenon, known as the “feast or famine cycle,” helps explain why some kids develop different relationships with food when faced with insufficient access. 


Not all kids experience food insecurity in the same way. Some studies suggest that food insecurity is also linked to harmful weight loss behaviors such as dieting, overexercising, and self-induced vomiting. Additionally, research indicates that boys might be more inclined to turn to dieting when food is scarce, while girls may respond differently. More research is needed to understand the factors that shape children’s relationships, especially for those who lack access to adequate nourishment.  

Practical steps can make a difference too. 

Pediatricians and family physicians can play a key role in identifying children and families at risk of food insecurity by screening for it during wellness visits.  Additionally, once families are identified as being at risk of food insecurity, physicians can help connect them to local resources, such as food pantries. Physicians can also play a part in advocating for policies that address food insecurity at the federal, state, and community levels. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a policy statement recommending further actions that pediatricians can take to help ensure children and their families receive proper nutrition. 

For parents, recognizing the potential impact of food insecurity on their children’s well-being is the first step. By staying informed and vigilant, parents can create a supportive environment that helps mitigate the negative effects of food insecurity on their children’s relationship with food, as well as their overall physical and mental health. Here are some practical steps parents can take: 

  • Seek out local resources, such as food banks or assistance programs, to ensure access to nutritious food. 
  • Foster open communication about food and nutrition within the family to build a healthy dialogue. 
  • If possible, prioritize regular meals and snacks to provide stability and comfort, which can help reduce disordered eating behaviors in kids and teens. 

To sum it up, the link between food insecurity and disordered eating behaviors in youth is a complex issue that requires our attention and action!  By recognizing this link, parents can take meaningful steps to support their children in overcoming these challenges and flourishing both physically and mentally. 

This article was adapted from a recent publication entitled Food Insecurity and Disordered Eating Behaviors in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review, which was co-authored by Alejandra Vivas Carbo, Rachel A. Ross, and Natasha L. Burke.

Tatyana Bidopia (she/her) is a 3rd year in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at Fordham University. Her recent publications include an article exploring the relationship between acculturation, food insecurity, and food parenting practices; and an article exploring the relationships between weight-related abuse and disordered eating across different racial/ethnic identities . Tatyana is passionate about understanding sociocultural risk and protective factors for eating disorders and body image concerns in multiply marginalized populations, namely Latina women and girls.

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Shannon assists with the logistics of development and operations and making every day run as smoothly as possible. Her day-to-day focuses on our Recovery Support Program, budget management, events, and administrative support. She enjoys being part of the nonprofit world and finding ways to help enhance the organization. She has a heart for serving others and helping people succeed.

Shannon has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Health & Exercise Science from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from Walden University.

Outside of work, you can find Shannon chasing her two girls around, attending sporting events and finding the next brewery or winery to explore.

Lindsay leads our operations, programming, fundraising, and communications to better fulfill our mission. She enjoys engaging with our supporters and stakeholders to build stronger connections to our work. Outside the office, you can find her planning her next trip, exploring the Twin Cities, or reading her book club’s latest pick.

With ten years of experience in nonprofit and foundation administration, Lindsay is a creative project manager working to strengthen all our operations. She loves being a part of a team deeply dedicated to discovering innovative and effective strategies to end eating disorders and is excited to invite others into this important work. Efficient and collaborative, she executes activity across all operations, including fundraising, events, communications, and programming. Lindsay has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Northwestern, St. Paul, and a fundraising certificate from the University of St. Thomas. She and her family live in Richfield, MN.

As Executive Director, Lisa leads WithAll’s strategic growth as a sustainable social enterprise dedicated to the prevention of and healing from eating disorders.

Lisa has more than 20 years of experience in public affairs, community relations, and law, and nearly 15 years of experience in non-profit leadership, most recently at Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media. She is a graduate of Mitchell Hamline School of Law, a member of the Minnesota Bar, and a Minnesota Supreme Court appointee to Minnesota’s Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board. She volunteers with her daughter’s school and with youth sports.

Lisa does this work because she knows eating disorders are not a choice; they are deadly, and they are everywhere. She also knows kids are not born with harmful thoughts and actions around food or their body—and it’s our job as adults to keep it this way so they can focus their precious brains and time on things that matter.

Lisa finds laughter, all children, and the numerous variations of sparkling water to be delightful.