An initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Expert Perspective

What Is / What Can Be

Food systems SNAP

Rosalie and her grandson Mauricio

Rosalie and her grandson Mauricio


October 23rd, 2023


Not all families experience the food system in the same way. Today, more than 2.5 million children in the U.S. are growing up in “grandfamilies,” meaning they are being raised by relatives other than their parents, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or siblings.

25% of households with grandparents raising children experience food insecurity.

Grandfamilies are at increased risk of food insecurity due to poverty, racial discrimination, disability, marriage status, employment status, and other factors. Grandfamilies are disproportionately African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, and, in some areas, Latino. Years of systemic racism and discrimination have led to difficulties accessing support systems and inequitable supports for grandfamilies. A large number of grandparent-headed households also live in rural areas where food sources are often further away from home and transportation options are limited.

Generations United is working to change current policies to ensure grandfamily caregivers and the children they raise have access to adequate nutritious food. Through a new storytelling project, What Is / What Can Be, Generations United invites grandfamilies to share their lived experiences and help us to see, imagine, and create new futures. The project features words and visual expressions of the challenges grandfamilies face and their hopes, dreams, and imaginations about what matters most to them in creating new futures.

Learn more about What Is / What Can Be and consider hosting the exhibit at an upcoming event.

A teenage boy sits writing at a table in his home

“Food is not just something we use to fill our bellies when we’re hungry, food is energy, food is sustenance, food is something we use to connect with each other. But one other thing that food is, is that it is a key part of our health.”

Mauricio, age 15

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