The USDA estimates, published in a series of annual reports, are widely used by government agencies, the media, and advocacy groups to report the extent of food insecurity and hunger in the United States, to monitor progress toward national objectives, to evaluate the impact of particular public policies and programs, as a standard by which the performance of USDA programs is measured, and as a basis for a diverse body of research relating to food assistance programs. Despite the extensive use of the measure, some major questions continue to be raised regarding the underlying concepts, the methodology, and their use.
The USDA requested the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academies to convene a panel of experts to undertake a two-year study in two phases to review the concepts, methodology for measuring food insecurity and hunger, and the uses of the measures. The charge specifies that during Phase 1 of the study a workshop will be held to address the key issues laid out for the study and a short report will be prepared based on the workshop discussions and preliminary deliberations of the panel. The specific tasks to be addressed in Phase 1 of the study are:
the appropriateness of a household survey as a vehicle for monitoring on a regular basis the prevalence of food insecurity among the general population and within broad population subgroups, including measuring frequency and duration;
the appropriateness of identifying hunger as a severe range of food insecurity in such a survey-based measurement method;
the appropriateness, in principle and in application, of item response theory and the Rasch model as a statistical basis for measuring food insecurity;
the appropriateness of the threshold scores that demarcate food insecurity categories—particularly the categories “food insecure with hunger” and “food insecure with hunger among children”—and the labeling and interpretation of each category;