Food insecurity can lead to family violence, new UTSA study says

Food insecurity is family's lack of access to affordable, nutritious food

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Many may not think food insecurity, which is a family's lack of access to affordable nutritious food, has any connection to domestic violence. A University of Texas at San Antonio professor, however, released a study in March proving that the two issues are closely related.

"The lack of access to food can be such a toxic stressor, especially when it's persistent over time, that it can trigger violence in the home," said Dr. Dylan Jackson, assistant criminology professor at UTSA.

Jackson's 18-month-long study found that in households with consistent access to healthy food, only about 1 in 25 children were exposed to any violence. In households with food insecurity over multiple years, 1 in 5 children either saw or experienced violence in the home. 

Jackson also found that the longer food insecurity lasted, the likelihood of that family experiencing violence grew.

As a criminologist, Jackson is thinking outside the box, but he believes giving families better access to nutritious food could prevent violence and crime. His study is unique for two main reasons.

"It uses a sample that's nationally representative, which means the results can be applied to the U.S. population," he said.

Secondly, it focuses on extremely young children, with an average age of 4. 

"My goal is to take the best of developmental science, take the best of public health knowledge and apply it to the earliest stages of life as a crime prevention tool," Jackson said.

Jackson is already creating a network of experts in different fields to focus specifically on the food and violence connection, hoping to eventually influence policy and funding.

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