Examining the link between food prices and food insecurity: A multi-level analysis of maize price and birthweight in Kenya

Kathryn Grace, Molly Brown, Amy McNally

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


In developing countries where many poor people rely on rainfed, locally produced food for the majority of their caloric intake, shifts in climate and weather patterns can dramatically reduce agricultural productivity. The reduction in agricultural productivity reduces overall food availability and ultimately impacts food accessibility, putting millions of people at risk for malnutrition. In this project we focus on Kenya where roughly a third of households are food insecure. We examine the relationship of the price of maize and low birth weight to help quantify the impact of local food prices on one outcome of household food insecurity. Using spatially referenced data from recent Kenyan Demographic and Health Survey datasets, price data, livelihood information, and a remotely sensed-based measure of local growing season productivity, we develop a dataset linking pregnancies occurring from 2001 to 2008 to the spatially and temporally relevant maize price data. We construct several regression models to examine the impact of local maize prices and remotely sensed based estimates of crop production on infant birth weight - specifically low birth weight. The results of the models highlight the importance of including community crop production to evaluate maize price impacts on low birth weight outcomes. Also, because of the positive correlation between pre-pregnancy maize prices and birth weight, the results suggest that some households may benefit from high prices or that high prices may impact the number of conceptions. More generally, our work demonstrates that multilevel models that account for community-level variation are important for disentangling these complex relationships and can contribute to the discussion of how to design more effective food policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-65
Number of pages10
JournalFood Policy
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Agricultural production
  • Kenya
  • Low birth weight
  • Maize prices
  • Malnutrition


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