According to the Food Insecurity and Hunger in the U.S. report, released in February 2016 by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and Children’s Health Watch, food insecurity among immigrants, refugees, and asylees living in the United States is greater than for U.S. born children. It also describes research to support that the longer these families are in the U.S., though their food security may increase, their health declines with increased risk for obesity and diet-related diseases.
The report thoroughly details issues surrounding this population and offers policy approaches that include:
“increasing naturalization rates of eligible immigrants; enacting immigration reform to create a path to legal status for more people; increasing income by assuring higher wages and enforcement of existing wage and hour rules for all workers; changing SNAP rules to allow all otherwise eligible lawful residents to participate; and decreasing language barriers for access to all nutrition programs (Food Research and Action Center, 2015).”
All of these policy solutions will make an impact in these families, but I propose that policy approaches addressing the needs of immigrant, refugees, and asylees for quality child care also be explored. Quality child care supports the recommendation that immigrants earn higher wages and obtain longer hours of work as a solution to food insecurity. We know from our own lives as working parents that the linkages to access quality child care are a critical support to achieving this outcome. In addition to providing safe care while parents work, quality child care can offer parent education and resources which could include information on how to navigate American grocery stores, American food and resources on a healthy diet—helping families acculturate into their communities in a supported way.
With the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), those seeking child care will be provided information on nutrition programs such as SNAP, which would increase access, another strategy mentioned in the report. Additionally, a quality child care environment that participates in the USDA food program would provide healthy nutrition during hours of care for the children of refugee/asylee/and immigrant families.
It is imperative that policy makers and researchers explore the linkages to the issues surrounding child care to further solutions to multiple issues for immigrants, refugees and asylees, including food security and health.
Guest blog post by Jacqueline Rose, Director, Military Child Care Liaison Initiative, Child Care Aware® of America