Iowa State Researchers Find Relationship between Food Insecurity and Depression

By Matthew Leimkuehler

Kim GrederAMES, Iowa -- A new study by an Iowa State University professor and student links food insecurity and maternal depression in rural America.

“We wanted to look at the depressive level that mothers in rural areas were experiencing,” said Kim Greder, an associate professor in human development and family studies and ISU Extension and Outreach family life state specialist. “The nugget that can be taken away from this is, ‘Take care of mom. Make sure mom’s mental health is good.’”

Greder is the principal investigator of a study looking at household food insecurity, maternal depression, and child behaviors in rural, low-income families. The study included in-depth interviews and surveys with 371 mothers in rural, isolated areas in 13 states including California, Texas, North Carolina, Iowa and Louisiana.

The requirements for participating adult mothers included having a low income with at least one child 13 or younger.

Greder’s research shows 42 percent of the families interviewed suffer from food insecurity, according to completion of a U.S. Department of Agriculture household food insecurity module. She said this is directly related to 36 percent of the mothers interviewed suffering from depression, according to the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale.

She said low-income families in rural America often struggle with being isolated. The simple task of going to the grocery store can be difficult.

“Food is a basic need that affects other aspects of your life,” she said.

Read the complete story from the College of Human Sciences.


Kim Greder, associate professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University, 515-294-5906,

Matthew Leimkuehler, graduate assistant, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-9424,