A recent report by Children’s HealthWatch (CHW) and Medical-Legal Partnership in Boston (MLPB) found that children whose families live in Boston’s subsidized housing are more likely to be food-secure and less likely to be underweight than children whose families are on the waiting list for a subsidized home. The report, which supplemented the data from Boston with national statistics, concluded that increasing a family’s income with a housing subsidy allows the family to spend that money on food, therefore decreasing the likelihood of children within the household facing food insecurity. The report defines “food insecurity” as a condition in which families reduce the quality or quantity of food because of constrained resources. Food insecurity is associated with increased risk of hospitalization, poor health, developmental delays, and iron deficiency anemia in young children.
Between June 2007 and June 2009, CHW collected data at its Boston research site and found that food insecurity among interviewed families increased from 14% to 27%. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed a 12% decline in median spending on food between 2000 and 2007. During the same time period, spending on housing increased, as did the most severe form of food insecurity among very low income families. These numbers point to a connection between housing and food, showing that families are probably diverting funds from already tight food budgets to pay housing costs.
While subsidized housing does not immediately lift children out of food insecurity, the study found that food-insecure children living in subsidized housing in Boston were 52% less likely to be seriously underweight than food insecure children on the wait list. The report concludes that in addition to providing children with safer homes, subsidized housing provides families with additional resources to help raise healthy children.
The complete study is available at: http://www.childrenshealthwatch.org/upload/resource/RxforhungerNEW12_09.pdf