Food insecurity is defined as a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited ability to acquire personally acceptable foods that meet cultural needs in a socially acceptable way. Using an eight-item questionnaire, the New Zealand Health Survey child component asked primary caregivers to rate their household’s food security in 2012/13, 2014/15 and 2015/16.
The New Zealand Health Survey estimates indicate that although the majority of children live in food-secure households, a substantial share of New Zealand children do not. In 2015/16, almost one in five children (19.0%) lived in severely to moderately food-insecure households. This is an important public policy concern, both from the perspective of the rights of children and potential adverse health, development and education consequences.
The report highlights that certain subgroups of children are more likely to live in food-insecure households. Socioeconomic factors (household income in particular) played an important role in many of these group differences. Children in food-insecure households had poorer parent-rated health status, poorer nutrition, higher rates of overweight or obesity, and a higher prevalence of developmental or behavioural difficulties. Parents of children in food-insecure households were more likely to report psychological and parenting stress, as well as have poorer self-rated health status. The information in this report provides insights that can be used to improve the wellbeing of children and understand the impact of poverty.