Household Food Insecurity and School Readiness among Preschool-Aged Children in the United States

Dylan B. Jackson, Alexander Testa, Daniel C. Semenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The present study examines the association between mild and moderate-to-severe household food insecurity and school readiness among a nationally representative sample of preschool-aged children. Design: Cross-sectional data pertaining to household availability of food as well as four domains of school readiness - early learning skills, self-regulation, social-emotional development, and physical health & motor development - were employed. Setting: The United States. Participants: 15,402 children ages 3 to 5 from the 2016-2018 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH). Results: Both mild and moderate-to-severe food insecurity are associated with an increase in needing support or being at-risk in each of the four school readiness domains, particularly Self-Regulation (IRR = 4.31; CI = 2.68-6.95) and Social-Emotional Development (IRR = 3.43; CI = 2.16-5.45). Furthermore, while nearly half of children in food-secure households are on-track across all four school readiness domains (47.49%), only 1 in 4 children experiencing moderate-to-severe household food insecurity are on track across all domains (25.26%). Conclusions: Household food insecurity is associated with reductions in school readiness among preschool-aged children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • Children
  • Household Food Insecurity
  • Preschool
  • School Readiness

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