How older households manage food insecurity with food production activities

Household food insecurity is a concern in the U.S. given the negative effects associated with food insecurity. An interesting finding is that elderly households tend to be more food secure than younger households, even though many are on a fixed income. A relevant question is what might elderly households be doing that is resulting in greater food security? One potential explanation is that in retirement, elderly households can invest in more time-intensive activities that provide greater food security. In this study, we combine time-use diaries with food security surveys to examine whether time spent on food production is associated with lower levels of food insecurity for elderly households. The data show that time spent in meal preparation and eating is increasing with older age cohorts. At the same time, food insecurity is declining steadily with older households. Grocery shopping and non-grocery food shopping do not show any relevant trends. We also compare food insecurity of households that are pre and post retirement eligible to see if food production explains the gap in food insecurity between these household types. We find that time spent on meal preparation and time spent eating explain some of the gap in food insecurity between these households and the results vary by marital status. Finally, we specify a two-stage model to estimate whether time spent on food production causes greater food security. Our specification fails to identify a strong relationship. One potential explanation is that older households in our sample generate bias as we only observe households that still live independently and alone.



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Joshua Berning Jude Bayham Alessandro Bonanno Rebecca Cleary