Low-income teenagers in the US are reportedly being forced into having sex for money according to think tank, The Urban Institute. According to the research centre, some young women have said that they were "selling their body" while boys take to shoplifting and selling drugs to survive.
Researchers in partnership with Feeding America, a country-wide network of food banks , carried out the studies and in 13 of the 20 focus groups, poor teenage girls reported offering sex so that they had enough to eat.
Much of the sexual behaviour was characterised as "transactional dating" with older men, according to the Urban Institute report. Sex with a significantly older man was viewed as an exchange for meals, goods and also money. Girls interviewed for the study said it was a common occurrence.
"It's really like selling yourself," said a teenage girl in Portland, Oregon. " You'll do whatever you need to do to get money or eat." Teenagers apparently revealed that girls were also having sex with strangers or stripping for money in abandoned houses.
"When you're selling your body, it's more in disguise. Like if I had sex with you, you have to buy me dinner tonight," an unidentified boy said. "That's how girls deal with the struggle. That's better than taking money, because if they take money they will be labelled a prostitute."
Food insecurity expert Craig Gundersen recently estimated that 6.8 million young people aged 10-17 have difficulties in finding enough to eat, including 2.9 million who have very low food security, using Current Population Survey data.
Susan Popkin, the lead author of the study said: "Even for me, who has been paying attention to this and has heard women tell their stories for a long time, the extent to which we were hearing about food being related to this vulnerability was new and shocking to me, and the level of desperation that it implies was really shocking to me," she said according to The Guardian. "It's a situation I think is just getting worse over time."