What are the determinants of food insecurity in New Zealand and does this differ for males and females?

This is an article published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2010


Aims: Food insecurity is a lack of assured access to sufficient nutritious food. We aimed to investigate the demographic and socio-economic determinants of food insecurity in New Zealand and whether these determinants vary between males and females.

Methods: We used data from the longitudinal Survey of Families, Income and Employment (SoFIE) (n=18,950). Respondents were classified as food insecure if, in the past 12 months, they had to use special food grants or food banks, been forced to buy cheaper food to pay for other things, or had to go without fresh fruit and vegetables often. Logistic regression analyses were used to investigate the association of demographic and socioeconomic factors on food insecurity. Models were repeated stratifying by males and females.

Results: Over 15% of the SoFIE population in NZ were food insecure in 2004/05. The prevalence of food insecurity was much greater in females (19%) than males (12%). The adjusted odds of food insecurity was significantly higher in females compared to males (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.5-1.8). In univariate analyses, food insecurity was associated with sole parenthood, unmarried status, younger age groups, Māori and Pacific ethnicity, worse self-rated health status, renting, being unemployed and lower socioeconomic status. Income was the strongest predictor of food insecurity in multivariate modelling (OR 4.9, 95%CI 4.0-5.9 for lowest household income quintile versus highest). The associations of demographic and socioeconomic factors with food insecurity were similar in males and females.

Conclusions: Food insecurity is a timely and relevant issue, as it affects a significant number of New Zealanders. Targeted policy interventions aimed at increasing money available in households are needed. Key words: Food security; determinants; gender; socioeconomic status