229615 Violence of hunger: How gender discrimination and trauma relate to food insecurity in the United States

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 : 11:30 AM - 11:50 AM

Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH , Health Management and Policy, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, PA
Jenny Rabinowich, BA , Philadelphia GROW Project/Witnesses to Hunger, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, PA
Crystal Sears , Drexel University School of Publuc Health, Witnesses to Hunger, Philadelphia, PA
Angela Sutton , Drexel University School of Public Health, Witnesses to Hunger, Philadelphia, PA
Rates of food insecurity in the United States have increased dramatically since the economic downturn from 35 to 49 million (16.4% of US population). Since the USDA began reporting food security rates in 1995, female-headed households have had the highest prevalence of food insecurity (currently 37.2% female-headed households are food insecure). Vulnerability to food insecurity is seen among women and children worldwide and is often related to gender discrimination and violence. Research with Witnesses to Hunger, a participatory action research initiative with Philadelphia low-income women, demonstrates that experiences with childhood trauma, rape and domestic violence affect women's mental health, their ability to continue school, and their ability to obtain an adequate job with a living wage. All of these factors affect their ability to afford food for themselves and their children. Two thirds of the women involved described experiences with major traumatic life events and community violence, and also experienced periods of food deprivation. Evidence from theme analyses utilizing atlast.ti suggests that previous and current experiences with violence and trauma are strongly correlated with the experience of hunger and food insecurity. Despite this connection, the national dialogue about hunger and poverty noticeably lacks any mention of the violence and trauma that are so often underlying factors. While proximal policy interventions related to nutrition assistance and income supports are essential, policy makers and the public alike must begin to address violence against women and children in order to stop the perpetuation of poverty and hunger.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the epidemiological and qualitative associations between food insecurity and depression, violence and trauma 2. Identify ways in which violence against women is on the causal pathway to food insecurity 3. Formulate ideas on how to address the policy implications of gender-based violence and its relationship to the perpetuation of poverty and hunger

Keywords: Food Security, Violence

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because for more than 10 years I have been Principal Investigator on multiple, externally funded research projects related to food insecurity and nutrition, and I am the Director and Founder of Witnesses to Hunger.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.