Date of Graduation

5-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Sociology (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Sociology and Criminal Justice

Advisor

Kevin M. Fitzpatrick

Committee Member

Anna Zajicek

Second Committee Member

William Schwab

Abstract

This study examines the relationship between food insecurity and social capital among 5th-7th graders attending an intermediate school in Northwest Arkansas where nearly 70 percent of students participate in the free or reduced lunch program. The central research questions are: Does social capital have a direct impact on children's food insecurity? And, does social capital mediate the influence of negative circumstances on children's food insecurity? This study finds that social capital does have a significant association with food insecurity, even when controlling for multiple demographic and circumstantial factors. However, there appears to be no mediation of circumstance by social capital. Additionally, we find that the quality of relationships among peers, rather than the quantity of close friends, plays a primary role in children's food insecurity. Together, these findings tell a story about the importance of relationships among middle-school children and how these connections may function to provide a shield from insecurity. More broadly, however, this study informs the larger question of how hunger exists in a nation as rich as the United States by addressing food insecurity as a social phenomenon rather than simply an economic, technological, or biological one.

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