Correlates of energy intake and body mass index among homeless children in Minnesota

Rickelle Richards, Chery Smith, Dennis L. Eggett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: This study evaluated environmental, personal, and behavioral correlates of BMI-for-age percentiles, dietary intake (kilocalories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, and Food Guide Pyramid food groups), and physical activity variables among homeless children. Methods: A 74-item survey, using social cognitive theory as the theoretical framework, height, weight, and one 24-hour recall were collected from homeless children aged 9-13 (n=159) at two shelters in Minneapolis, MN. Principal component analysis was performed on the subsections of the survey. Independent t-tests, Fisher exact tests, and chi-squared statistics evaluated sociodemographic and BMI percentile variables. Nonparametric tests evaluated dietary data. Stepwise regression models evaluated correlates of BMI percentiles, physical activity, and dietary intake variables. Results: Approximately 45% were overweight or obese (≥85th percentile). Dietary data represented intake on a given day, with children consuming a median 1.2 servings from the fruits and vegetables food group, 17.3 servings from the fats and sweets food group (one serving=grams in 1 Tbsp. fat/1 tsp. sugar), and the percent of calories from fat varying significantly between shelter 1 (S1) versus shelter 2 (S2) boys (37.1% vs. 31.7%, p<0.001). Factors identified from survey items and sociodemographic variables accounted for between 6% and 14% of the variance in energy intake and other dietary and physical activity variables (p range, 0.008 to <0.001). Conclusions: Parental role modeling of eating behaviors and getting enough food were associated with less favorable food choices among homeless children. Policy interventions and program initiatives in the homeless environment could promote healthier food choices among children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-251
Number of pages12
JournalChildhood Obesity
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


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