Child Feeding Practices in New York State (completed)

The Influence of Past Food Insecurity on Parents’ Use of Child Feeding Practices Recommended to Prevent Child Obesity

Kelsey interviewing

Kelsey Skylar ’17 conducting a primary caregiver interview.

We explored how low-income parents’ previous childhood experiences with food insecurity and other food-related experiences shape practices in adulthood, based on views that came up spontaneously in previous research. We developed a brief scale to measure previous food insecurity, adapted from the USDA measure of current child food insecurity, and conducted cognitive interviews as a first step in validating the scale for program use to identify life experiences of participants that could affect response to programs. Rather than long-term recall being the primary measurement barrier, many respondents reported strong and emotional memories of childhood hunger or anxiety about access to food. Respondents said they could not know the severity or cause of food insecurity as children, and while they were willing to share memories in interviews when they could explain their parents’ best efforts in the face of challenges, they were reluctant to answer scale items which focused on lack of food rather than parental behavioral strategies for managing shortages. The advantage of a focus on coping strategies has implications for measurement of food insecurity in any time period. Results also highlighted possible long-term repercussions of childhood hardships for behavior in adulthood.

Fall Forum

Kelsey Skylar ’17 and Megan Szpak ’16 present their poster to Professor Kate Dickin and the Cornell community at the Undergraduate Research Fall Forum.

A second phase of the project focused on parents’ emic perspectives and goals for child feeding, applying the Motivation-Ability-Opportunity framework to explored influences on success in achieving their goals.

Research Team: Kate Dickin, Roseanne Schuster, Stephanie Ortolano, Tracey Rosa, Kelsey Skylar, Megan Szpak, Elizabeth Klein

Funding: Federal Formula Funds, USDA/Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station


Rosa TL, Ortolano SE, Dickin KL. Remembering food insecurity: Low-income parents’ perspectives on childhood experiences and implications for measurement. Appetite 2017.

Schuster RC, Szpak M, Klein E, Sklar K, Dickin KL.  “I try, I do”: Child feeding practices of motivated low-income parents reflect trade-offs between psychosocial and nutrition goals. Appetite 2019.