Assessing Food Insecurity in Kentucky

Year: 1999

Research Center: Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi State University

Investigator: Kurzynske, Janet S., and Suzanne A. McGough

Institution: University of Kentucky

Project Contact:
Janet S. Kurzynske
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40546-0064
606-255-8640, fax 606-258-2670


The purpose of this study is to measure the nature and extent of food insecurity in Kentucky using a relatively inexpensive, reliable survey method. The authors used the University of Kentucky Phone Survey, a telephone survey of approximately 1260 Kentucky households in which each residential telephone line has as an equal chance of being contacted. The survey was conducted in March/April and July 1999. The authors modified food security questions from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III for their survey. They asked respondents to provide answers that represented their own and their family’s experience. Five questions were asked, including one question specifically concerning children in the household.

Survey respondents were representative of the demographics of the State, with a small over-representation of higher income and educated people due to phone access. To compensate for this, results were statistically weighted to account for the population without phones.

The authors classified households as food insecure when the respondents answered that they and their family sometimes or often did not have enough to eat. The results showed an estimated 6.5 percent of Kentucky households were food insecure, with 1.1 percent responding positively to “often not having enough to eat” and 5.4 percent responding to “sometimes not having enough to eat.” Sixty-six percent of food insecure households indicated experiencing at least one day in the past 12 months without food or money to buy food. Of those indicating at least one day without food, 88.5 percent reported that this was due to not having enough money, food stamps, or WIC vouchers. Households with children had more than double the rate of food insecurity as households without children. The proportion of food-insecure minority households was 14.5 percent, almost triple the non-Hispanic white level of 5.2 percent.

The results of the Kentucky survey are not directly comparable to national survey data on food insecurity. However, Kurzynske and McGough found that food-insecure households in Kentucky have demographic characteristics similar to national samples: they are the poor, those with less formal education, families with children, minorities, and Food Stamp and WIC program participants. They conclude that the Kentucky Research Survey Center’s telephone survey of Kentucky households is a relatively inexpensive, expedient method to monitor State food insecurity trends.