The Southwestern United States border region is home to many colonias. These settlements are occupied by a growing population of people who share a similar Mexican heritage, language, and socioeconomic standing and who have unacceptably high rates of poverty, adult and childhood obesity, and food insecurity [1–3]. Border-region colonias can be considered an archetype for the increasing number of new destination immigrant communities . Many of these communities of Mexican immigrants are located throughout the United States, including many non-traditional interior locales [4–6].
Food insecurity underpins an emerging national issue of nutritional health inequity among Mexican-origin and Hispanic households. The 2009 Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement identified low or very low food security in 26.9% of Hispanic households, compared with 14.7% in all U.S. households, and in 18.7% of Hispanic households with food-insecure children compared with 10.6% in all households . In a study of Mexican immigrant families in Minnesota, Kersey and colleagues observed much higher rates of child hunger among 1,310 Mexican immigrant families than among 1,805 non-immigrant families (6.8% versus 0.5%) . Food insecurity is much more prevalent among Mexican-origin households in the Texas border region compared with other regions of the U.S [3, 7]. In a study of food access among 610 adult women in Texas border colonias, researchers found 49% of all households and 61.8% of households with children could be classified at the most severe level of food insecurity - child insecure .
At the same time, nutrition-related health conditions, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, are increasing in Mexican-origin youth. Risk factors for obesity and type 2 diabetes are more common in Mexican-origin children than other racial/ethnic groups [9–11] and include increased intakes of energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods, such as fats, sweeteners, desserts, and salty snacks. Energy-dense foods are highly palatable and promote higher calorie intakes [12, 13]. Diets with proportionally more contribution from energy-dense foods increase the risk for inadequate intakes of vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and dietary fiber and the likelihood of consuming excessive amounts of added sugar, fats, and sodium . For limited-resource populations (households with limited economic and physical resources and limited access to healthy foods), including children of Mexican-origin, energy-dense foods may also be more accessible, available, and affordable [2, 15–17]. This may be especially true for Mexican-origin children in Texas border colonias who reside in food-insecure households in communities lacking access to nutritious food [2, 3, 18]. For children, residing in a food-insecure household can prevent them from achieving the nutrient intake needed for optimal development and health, as well as impede their academic performance [19–26].
Thus, it is critically important to understand the relationship between food insecurity and children's dietary intake among limited-resource Mexican-origin children. However, few studies have examined this association. Prior studies among Hispanics relied exclusively on parental reports of household food-supply adequacy and their child's diet and experiences. These studies revealed multiple associations between food insecurity and diet. Food-insecure children were less likely to meet recommended food-group guidelines , have greater intakes of fats, saturated fats, sweets, and fried foods , and lower fruit and vegetable intake at home . Among 5th grade students who reported dietary intake using three 24-hour dietary recalls and whose mothers reported food security, food-security status was not associated with dietary intake . Only one study assessed dietary intake through child-reported dietary recalls, and none measured food security from the child's perspective.
Although mothers often spare their children from nutritional deprivation and report that children are more protected from household food insecurity [31, 32], this experience is from the parent's perspective . There has been a call for research to assess the relationship between food security and children's diet , yet little research has focused on child's perceptions or experiences of food insecurity and their association with dietary intake . Current measures represent household food security status of the household or children within the household as a group, rather than the experiences of a particular individual within the household . Children best report their own experiences . Measurements of food security as reported by the child, which may be more sensitive of the food issues experienced by children, is essential for understanding the influence of food insecurity on the nutritional health of children . Understanding the relationship between children's experience of food security and their dietary intake  is needed to comprehend the effect of food insecurity on children's nutrient intake . The current study seeks to assess the relationship between children's experience of food insecurity and nutrient intake from food and beverages by (1) assessing food security status as reported by 50 Mexican-origin children (ages 6-11 years), (2) examining nutrient intakes from three 24 hour dietary recalls from each child, and (3) determining the relationship between food security status and nutrient intake.