Jennifer Bernal; Edward A. Frongillo; Hector Herrera; Juan Rivera
Children’s experiences of food insecurity (FI) may be conceptually distinct and different from those of adults. Previous study of children’s experiences of FI has relied primarily on their parents’ perspective. This study explored, described, and conceptualized experiences of FI in children attending 5 public schools in peri-urban areas of the Miranda State, Venezuela, South America using a naturalistic approach. Children aged 10–17 y were studied through focus groups (n = 42) and individual interviews (n = 13). Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using grounded theory. Children were cognitively aware of FI, worry in their parents, and causes both external and internal to their households. Children were also emotionally aware of FI, with feelings of concern, anguish, and sadness, and manifestations such as crying. Children reported being physically hungry, experiencing reduced quantity and quality of food intake, having smaller meals, and recognizing thinness and fainting as consequences. Children’s responses to FI included reduction of quality and quantity of food, child labor, sacrifice in food consumption, food from waste, support from extended family members, and strategies for purchasing, acquiring, preparing, and cooking food. Children were not always protected, especially when the head of the family was unemployed, had drug-alcohol problems, or was extremely poor. Protection could come from parents to children and from older children to parents and younger children. Children should have certain access to food that is dignified, timely, efficient, and adequate in harmonious social conditions to prevent and resolve situations that compromise their physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional well-being.