Improving access to healthy, affordable foods can help prevent and reduce obesity among children and families. Yet many families do not have access to healthy affordable foods in their neighborhoods and communities. Food access is also an important component of food security, which is having consistent access to enough nutritious food for a healthy active life. In 2018, an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, including more than 11 million children.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, this number rose to the highest levels ever documented in the U.S. at 38%, with nearly 1 in 2 households with children impacted. Research in this area focuses on increasing access to healthy affordable foods through grocery stores, corner stores, restaurants, mobile food vendors, farmers’ markets, and other food outlets in low-access areas including lower-income communities in urban and rural areas.

Research & Publications See all

June 2022

Food Insecurity and Childhood Obesity: A Systematic Review

Addressing food insecurity while promoting healthy body weights among children is a major public health challenge. Our objective is to examine longitudinal associations between food insecurity and obesity in U.S. children aged 1 to 19 years. Sources for this research include PubMed, CINAHL, and Scopus databases (January 2000 to February 2022). We included English language More

March 2022

Nutrition standards for the charitable food system: challenges and opportunities

Food insecurity is associated with increased risk of chronic disease and poor dietary intake. The United States charitable food system, a complex network of food banks, pantries and congregate meal sites, provides food for millions of low-income households each year. Food banks and pantries play a critical role in supporting food security and are an More

November 2021

Policy Approaches to Healthier Food Banking

People who rely on the charitable food system both want and deserve nutritious food and beverages that support their health. Yet a 2018 report by MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that, on average, 25 percent of food bank distributions remain unhealthy. CSPI conducted research More

October 2021

Healthier Food Donation Guidelines for Retailers and Distributors

Nutritious donations are more important than ever: 60 million people turned to the charitable food system in 2020. Food banks rely on retail and distributor donations for about 30 percent of inventory, and often receive unwanted unhealthy food, like soda and candy. This resource was developed to help food retailers and distributors donate more nutritious More