Teens are vulnerable to food insecurity for both biological and social reasons. This study aimed to better understand the factors that underpin teen food insecurity and the coping strategies teens employ when faced with limited food access and hunger. A sociodemographic survey including the USDA's Self-Administered Food Security Survey Module for Children Ages 12 Years and Older, focus groups, and photovoice were used to collect data on the demographics, food insecurity prevalence, and experiences of food insecurity among thirty-eight teens from five different communities in Tampa Bay, Florida. Results showed that approximately 44 percent of teens were food insecure. Factors that associated with food insecurity included: (1) negative perceptions of food quality, food options, school administration, food waste, and food assistance utilization; (2) school and programming issues including the timing of meals, portion sizes, and regulations associated with food and access; (3) stigma and bullying; and (4) socioeconomics. Teens relied on their communities (e.g., friends, churches), illegal activities (e.g., stealing), cheap and unhealthy foods, jobs, or their teachers to cope with food insecurity. The findings highlight significant opportunities for food security interventions that target the unique nutritional needs and social experiences of adolescents. The study was funded by the county Juvenile Welfare Board.

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