Project: Improving the Measurement of Food Security and Hunger
Award Year: 1998
Amount of award, fiscal 1998: $200,000.00
Institution: Iowa State University
Principal Investigator: Helen Jensen
Status: Completed
Detailed Objective: This work provides a research base for improving the measurement of food security and hunger at the household level by:
  • assessing the effects of questionnaire structure, item content and wording, screening patterns, split-panels, and non-response patterns in the first three years of data from the Food Security Supplements to the Current Population Survey;
  • investigating alternative approaches for scaling food security items and classifying households into food security categories; and
  • developing and field testing a set of questions for future modifications of the food security scale.

The Congressionally mandated 10-year Plan for the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Program assigned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) a leadership role in developing "a standardized mechanism and instruments for defining and obtaining data on the prevalence of 'food insecurity' or 'food insufficiency' in the U.S." Nationally representative data were collected using supplements to the Current Population Survey (CPS) in 1995, 1996 and 1997. Annual CPS supplements are planned for 1998 and beyond. The survey module is also planned for implementation in the USDA's Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals (CSFII), the National Center for Health Statistics' National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and other national, State, and local surveys.

A significant amount of research has gone into developing and testing the questionnaire and developing and testing scaled measures based on it. National prevalence of food insecurity and hunger were estimated for 1995, and prevalence estimates are currently being calculated for 1996 and 1997. However, additional research is needed to assess, improve, and strengthen the measurement methods and techniques. This project targets the research issues of highest priority to those ends.

Improving the reliability and validity of measures of food insecurity and hunger will improve the USDA's ability to monitor the need for and effect of its nutrition assistance programs, to target them more effectively, and to improve their efficiency. A cooperative assistance agreement for $200,000 was established with Iowa State University in July 1998. The expected project completion date is September, 2001.

Topic: Data Collection and Methodology, Food Security
Drignei, D., and S. Nusser. "On Reducing the Number of Items in the Food Security Supplement for Measuring Food Insecurity," 2000 Proceedings of the Section on Government Statistics and the Section on Social Statistics, American Statistical Association, 2000.
Opsomer, J., H. Jensen, and S. Pan. "An Evaluation of the USDA Food Security Measure with Generalized Linear Mixed Models," The Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 133, Issue 2, February 2003, (Errata: Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 133, Issue 7, July 2003).