Exacerbation of household food insecurity among low-income families in Hong Kong during the COVID-19 pandemic

Tony K.C. Yung*, Sabina Y.T. Tsang, Daisy D.S. Tam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: The economic depression and reduced physical mobility associated with COVID-19 potentially affected the food security status of the poor. This study aimed to assess the possible worsening of perceived food insecurity among low-income families in Hong Kong.

Methods: Families either receiving government subsidies or living in a subdi- vided flat referred by local non-governmental organisations were invited to participate in a telephone survey. Food security status before (by recalling) and during the pandemic were assessed using Household Food Insecurity Access Scale. Chi-square analysis and ANOVA were used to test the difference between the percentage of participants who responded affirmatively to survey questions and various categories of food insecurity. Paired t-test was used to examine the reported change in food insecurity score before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Association between socio-demographic factors and change in food insecurity score was then assessed by multiple linear regression using backward stepwise elimination.

Results: Findings from the 212 households revealed that, for all nine ques- tions concerning food insecurity, there was a significantly higher percentage of affirmative responses during versus before the pandemic. The proportion of food-secure households dropped from 16.5% to 7.1% amidst the pandemic. By contrast, households with severe food insecurity increased from 19.3% to 33.5%. Regression analysis showed that those households who were living in subdivided flats and with high monthly housing expenses, were likely to experience an exacerbation of food insecurity. Meanwhile, households with divorced parents (probably due to consistent social subsidy) and high house- hold incomes, showed resilience toward food insecurity. Concurrently, about one fifth of children in these households had an experience of starvation for a whole day due to financial constraints.

Conclusion: The exacerbation of food insecurity among low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates timely assessments and the implementation of appropriate measures to prevent them from experiencing physiological harm. These initiatives can be guided by the identified at-risk socio-economic characteristics in the present study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-493
Number of pages10
JournalNutrition and Dietetics
Issue number5
Early online date17 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

User-Defined Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • food security
  • low-income families
  • undernutrition


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