New research from Rice University says that policies addressing childhood hunger should target neighborhoods and not families.
Sociologists found that children living in neighborhoods with higher poverty rates and in those with high foreign-born populations and non-English speakers are more likely to experience hunger.
"Policymakers should be thinking about targeting whole communities, instead of what is done now, which is offering public aid programs for individual families," said Rice sociology professor Justin Denney. "Public aid works on a limited basis, reaching approximately 70 percent of eligible individuals. But unfortunately, the remaining 30 percent are unaccounted for."
Kimbro said that many of these children facing hunger have foreign-born parents fearful of applying for aid, despite their children's eligibility as citizens of the U.S., or parents ashamed of applying for public aid. By changing the focus of these policies away from the individual and on to the community, she said, parents might take advantage of community food programs.
"If we have policies targeted at neighborhoods rather than individuals, no one is excluded," she said.
The authors hope their findings will influence future policies addressing issues of childhood hunger.
"Families are critical for childhood development, but communities and neighborhoods have significant impacts as well, as this study clearly demonstrates," Kimbro said.