The relationship between low income and food insecurity is significant, for it challenges the common perception that child hunger is a result of individual failing.  Media reports and political rhetoric have placed emphasis on parental inadequacy and inept budgeting as the source of children’s food insecurity.[1]  Yet, cross-sectional survey research published by the Families Commission has found that low-income families with children do not differ from others in terms of food budgeting and meal-planning.  Instead, the most important factor contributing to food insecurity is economic.[2]  These observations echo earlier research showing that as food is the sole discretionary item in the budget of many low-income families, it is often the only item that can be cut back during periods of financial hardship.[3]

[1] Martin Anscombe, The Contemporary Political Dynamics of Feeding Hungry Children in New Zealand Schools (Master’s Thesis, University of Waikato, 2009).

[2] Claire Smith, Winsome Parnell, and Rachel Brown, Family Food Environment: Barriers to Acquiring Affordable and Nutritious Food in New Zealand Households (Wellington, NZ: Families Commission, 2010), 5.

[3] Charles Waldegrave, Peter King, and Shane Stuart, The Monetary Constraints and Consumer Behaviour in New Zealand Low Income Households (Lower Hutt, NZ: Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit, 1999).