Pawning family valuables or paying one bill while letting another bill slide may be warning signs that someone is at risk for being food insecure. A new University of Illinois study uses data collected from people who visit food pantries to show that these financial coping strategies can help identify people who are very food insecure or at risk for becoming food insecure.

“It’s not just about income,” says U of I economist Craig Gundersen, who coauthored the study. “In order to determine whether or not people are food insecure, we’ve been asking if they are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food because they had insufficient money or other resources. Now we’re seeing that it’s more complicated than that.”

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