School Absenteeism is Linked to Household Food Insecurity in School Catchment Areas in Southern Nevada

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Public Health Nutrition

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© The Authors 2021. Objectives: Food security and school attendance are both important for health, well-being, and academic performance of children and adolescents. However, their intersection remains underexamined, especially in the United States. This study considered the association between elementary school-level absenteeism and household food insecurity. Design: This study linked school-level absenteeism and household food insecurity rates using GIS mapping and applied the tobit regression model to examine their association. Setting: The Clark County, Nevada public school district - the fifth largest in the U.S. and in a state with disproportionate food insecurity and chronic school absenteeism rates. Participants: Data consisted of school-level absenteeism rates from 185 elementary schools and Census Tract-level household food insecurity rates. Results: Average daily attendance rates were lower for schools with catchment areas that had higher average household food insecurity (FI), decreasing by -0.0232% per 1% increase in FI rate (p-value=0.022). They were also significantly associated with most absenteeism risk factors. Average daily attendance rate was negatively associated with Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility percentage (-0.010 per 1% increase in FI, p-value<0.001), and Individualized Education Program participation percentage (-0.039% per 1% increase in FI, p-value=0.033), but positively associated with parent-teacher conference participation rate (0.006% per 1% increase in FI, p-value=0.025) and white student percentage (0.011% per 1% increase in FI, p-value=0.022). Conclusions: This study suggests a link between household food insecurity and elementary school-level absenteeism. Understanding this link is important for policy and practice because schools are frequent settings for food insecurity mitigation interventions.


Food insecurity; Food security; School absenteeism; School attendance


Education Policy | International and Community Nutrition



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