Date of Award

January 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Jaimie Meyer

Second Advisor

Trace Kershaw


Background: The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate globally and a recent study found that 91% of formerly incarcerated individuals report being food insecure. Given that, women have become the fastest-growing segment in the incarceration system. Women who are involved in the criminal justice system (WICJ) are more at risk for experiencing food insecurity and chronic diseases. Therefore, this study aims to contribute to existing knowledge on the overall health of WICJ by assessing the prevalence of food insecurity and the social determinants of health (SDOH) that may contribute to food insecurity.Objective: To provide information on the overall health of WICJ by examining the prevalence of food insecurity, assess what SDOH at a community level may impact food insecurity, and examine the environments in which they live. Methods: This is a cross-sectional data analysis using data derived from a demonstration project, known as Empowering. WICJ were interviewed and asked to self-report their responses to food insecurity, social demographic, and health. The primary outcome of interest is food security. Data analysis consisted of descriptive statistics, bivariate analysis of food security, Social Deprivation Index metric, and mediation pathway model. Results: Of the 104 participants, over one-third were categorized as food insecure. 97% of the women who were considered food insecure lived in a socially deprived city. Compared to women who were never married, those who were previously married had a 6.71 (95% CI=1.26, 44.43; p=.033) times higher odds of being food secure. Compared to people who were living independently, those who were living in a rehabilitation center had 10.49 (95% CI=2.03, 73.80; p=.009) times higher odds of being food secure. Conclusion: There is a high prevalence of food insecurity among WICJ. The study emphasizes women are more susceptible to food insecurity when they are living in socially deprived communities after incarceration. The analyses also demonstrate the importance of SDOH and the impact it has on food insecurity among this population.


This thesis is restricted to Yale network users only. It will be made publicly available on 05/10/2025