Families with Hungry Children: The Transition from Preschool to Kindergarten

The federal food and nutrition program consists of an array of programs that households may participate in based on the age of their children, household income, and where the child attends school or day-care. As a result, different households with similar income levels and numbers of children may receive substantially different bundles of food assistance. While variation may occur across the entire childhood period, there is a significant transition in the types of food and nutrition programs for which children qualify as they enter kindergarten. This research will explore how the bundle of services that households receive affects household and child food security levels.

Specifically, researchers will answer the following research questions:

  1. What impact does participation in Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) have on child and household food insecurity?
  2. As children enter kindergarten, how does the transition in nutritional programs impact child and household food insecurity?

Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey-Birth Cohort, appropriate econometric techniques, including regression discontinuity, propensity score matching and family fixed effects will be used to identify the impact of program participation and program transition on child and household food insecurity.

Results from this study will inform policy-makers about:

  • The contribution of the CACFP program to food security.
  • The relative strength of the food and nutrition bundle available to low-income families over childhood.
  • The impact of the transition from preschool to kindergarten on child and household security.

The proposed analyses use the most appropriate datasets available to answer the research questions and together provide a comprehensive picture of how participation in food and nutrition programs shapes the contours of food security at the child and household level over the course of childhood.

Publications include:

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and Food Insecurity PDF
March 2015
Social Sciences Review
Colleen Heflin, Irma Arteaga, and Sara Gable

Participation in the National School Lunch Program and Food Security: An analysis of transitions into kindergarten PDF
September 2014
Children and Youth Services Review
Irma Arteaga and Colleen Heflin