Household Food Insecurity, Coping Strategies, and Happiness
The Case of Two Public Housing Communities
Keywords:Household Food Security, Food Assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Public Housing Communities, Atlanta, USDA Food Security Core Survey Module, Coping Strategies, Happiness
Food insecurity continues to affect a significant number of U.S. households, even during periods of economic growth and prosperity. Household food insecurity in the U.S. is measured with the Food Security Core Survey Module, which reflects the importance of household financial resource constraint as the ultimate cause of food insecurity. While the module recognizes some of the strategies households employ to cope with food hardships, it hardly encompasses the salient strategies commonly used by low-income families. The purpose of this study is to identify the major strategies low-income households employ to cope with their food insecurity, and to gain insight into the process they go through toward making ends meet and into how the process may affect their sense of overall happiness. To this end, a survey instrument was developed and administered to low-income households in two public housing communities in Atlanta, Georgia. The results indicated that the majority of the sampled households, even those classified as food secure, report insufficiency of income to cover their monthly expenses. As a consequence, they employed a number of coping strategies to make ends meet. These included forgoing or delaying purchases of non-food items and borrowing or seeking help from friends and relatives. The study also found a mismatch between household self-assessment of their food conditions and food-security level classification. Despite the severity of coping strategies used, some households reported overall happiness with their lives, although, for the majority, the results suggested a positive association between perceptions of food sufficiency and a sense of overall happiness.
 The survey instrument it is available from the corresponding author upon request.
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