Fruit and vegetable consumption among WIC-enrolled children:
Differences by parental nativity and length of stay in the U.S.
Exposure to U.S. culture has been linked to a lower intake of fruit and vegetables (F&V). The aim of this study was to investigate the F&V consumption patterns of children of low-income immigrant parents. We focused on a sample of pre-school aged children who participate in the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in Los Angeles County, and assessed if children’s F&V intake varied by their parents’ nativity and length of stay in the U.S.
Study design to estimate children’s F&V consumption
Data used in the study comes from the 2011 Los Angeles County WIC Survey1, which includes a random sample of 5,000 WICparticipating households. We focused on a sub-sample of 2,352 children 3-5 years of age. To estimate children’s F&V consumption, we used the parents’ response to two questions, “On an average day, about how many servings of fruit [vegetables] does (child) eat?” To assess parents’ exposure to U.S. culture, we categorized parents as: 1) Non-Hispanic White, U.S. born; 2) Hispanic, U.S. born; 3) Hispanic, foreign born, lived ≥10 years in the U.S.; and 4) Hispanic, foreign born, lived <10 years in the U.S. In addition, we assessed F&V intake by child gender and weight status; parents’ language preference, educational attainment, and working status; and family poverty. Differences in children’s F&V consumption between groups were assessed by t-tests and analysis of variance (ANOVA).
Effects of parental exposure to U.S culture on their children’s consumption patterns
The average consumption was 3.06 and 2.22 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, respectively. Figures 1 and 2 display differences in fruit and vegetable daily consumption by child and family characteristics. Although differences were apparent between groups, the only significant differences in fruit intake were for parental exposure to U.S. culture: children of Hispanic foreignborn parents who had lived in the U.S. for <10 years consumed 0.26 fewer servings of fruit than children of Hispanic foreign-born parents who had lived in the U.S. for ≥10 years (p-value=0.0026).
Similarly, children of Hispanic foreign-born parents who had lived in the U.S. for <10 years consumed significantly fewer servings of vegetables per day than children of Hispanic foreign-born parents who had lived in the U.S. for ≥10 years (0.19 fewer servings), and of Hispanic U.S. born parents (0.25 fewer servings; p-value=0.0026).
In addition, children with a normal weight and whose parents preferred to speak English, consumed significantly more servings of vegetables than overweight/obese children and children whose parents preferred to speak Spanish, respectively.
Less F&V consumption for children of recent immigrants in the U.S
Among a sample of low-income WIC participants, children of parents who have been in the U.S. longer consumed more F&V than children of recent immigrants. This finding contradicts the findings of most studies2; however, some recent studies have reported findings consistent to ours3,4. The widespread perception that immigrants to the U.S. have better dietary practices than U.S. born Americans needs to be questioned in today’s globalized world.
- PHFE WIC Program. Los Angeles County WIC Survey Data: http://www.phfewic. org/projects/SurveyData.aspx
- Ayala GX, Baquero B, Klinger S. A systematic review of the relationship between acculturation and diet among Latinos in the United States: implications for future research. J Am Diet Assoc 2008;108:1330–44.
- Grimm KA, Blanck HM. Survey language preference as a predictor of meeting fruit and vegetable objectives among Hispanic adults in the United States, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2009. Prev Chronic Dis 2011;8(6):A133.
- Erinosho T, Berrigan D, Thompson F, Moser R, Nebeling L, Yaroch A. Dietary intakes of preschool-aged children in relation to caregivers’ race/ethnicity, acculturation, and demographic characteristics: results from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey. Matern Child Health J 2007;2011:1–10. Based on: Chaparro MP, Langellier BA, Wang MC, Koleilat M, Whaley SE. Effects of parental nativity and length of stay in the U.S. on fruit and vegetable intake among WICenrolled preschool-aged children. J Immigr Minor Health 2015;17(2):333-338.