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Children's nutritional health and wellbeing in food insecure households in Europe: A qualitative meta-ethnography

Lookup NU author(s): Zoe Bell, Dr Steph Scott, Dr Shelina Visram, Professor Judith Rankin, Professor Clare BambraORCiD, Dr Nicola HeslehurstORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Copyright: © 2023 Bell et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Since the 2008 global financial crisis, there has been a rise in the number of people experiencing food insecurity. Particularly vulnerable are households with children. This systematic review and meta-ethnography of qualitative studies focuses on families' perceptions of food insecurity and how it affects children's nutritional health and wellbeing. Six electronic databases (Medline, Scopus, Web of Science, EMBASE, CINAHL and ASSIA), were searched for studies from European high-income countries between January 2008-July 2021, and supplemented by searches of grey literature databases, relevant websites, examination of reference lists and citation searches. We adhered to PRISMA and eMERGe guidelines to improve the completeness and clarity of meta-ethnographic reporting. Methodological quality of the studies were assessed using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme qualitative checklist. We identified 11,596 records; we included 19 publications involving 813 participants in total. Data were synthesised according to Noblit & Hare's seven phases of meta-ethnography. We identified four key themes-food and eating practices, awareness, fragility, and networks of care-comprising five sub-themes. Our meta-ethnography provides a progressive 'storyline' of the children's experiences of food insecurity from both caregivers and children's perspectives. We found that children are aware of their family's limited resources and are often active in trying to help their families cope, and that food insecurity adversely impacts children's physical, psychological, and social experiences. Our analysis highlights gaps in knowledge about how food insecurity impacts children's nutritional health and wellbeing. It suggests that future research should prioritise minoritised ethnic communities, children living in temporary accommodation and caregivers of very young children.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bell Z, Scott S, Visram S, Rankin J, Bambra C, Heslehurst N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS ONE

Year: 2023

Volume: 18

Issue: 9

Online publication date: 29/09/2023

Acceptance date: 14/09/2023

Date deposited: 09/10/2023

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0292178

PubMed id: 37773922


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