Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Patricia Krueger-Henney

Second Advisor

Wenfan Yan

Third Advisor

Jessica Ruglis


The purpose of this research was to explore the ways food-insecure high-school-aged Latinas experienced food insecurity both inside and outside of school spaces. This research went beyond the scope of food insecurity to position selected high-school-aged young Latina women in Boston as experts to provide insights into the many layers of their lived food-insecure experiences. Food insecurity as a potential trauma has received little exposure. As such, no framework exists for analyzing food insecurity-triggered traumas in education. Thus, the author drew from LatCrit theory and the ecosocial theory of embodiment to create a transdisciplinary framework that helped examine participants’ connection to their academic performance.

Various data-collection methods were used in the study, including surveys, focus-group discussions, journals, “x-ray mapping” (Ruglis, 2011), Photovoice, and participant surveys. Findings from the research showed that participants were acutely aware of the challenges associated with the quality and availability of food in their communities, neighborhoods, and homes, and with access to nutritious food. Food quality and availability in their schools also contributed to experiences of food security or insecurity, with lunch ladies serving as “gatekeepers” who controlled access to sufficient and appealing or limited and rotten food. Participants felt the effects of food insecurity in multiple ways, including impacts on their health and the health of their families, body image, stress, and academic performance.

This research adds depth and breadth to the understanding of the lived experiences of young Latina women as being steeped in intersecting oppressions related to gender, ethnicity, social class, and age and the toll it takes on marginalized communities. It highlights the need to improve policy and programs to address the hidden and obvious physiological responses of food insecurity in the bodies of adolescents and youth. Finally, it underscores why food insecurity should be understood as and responded to as an adverse childhood experience that can have serious effects on young Latinas’ performance in school.


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