by an interagency committee, which has to review an agency’s request before questions can be added to the survey. The survey has a lengthy processing cycle. The period between data collection and data availability can be one to two years.


Because food insecurity and hunger as now measured are relatively rare events, fairly large sample sizes are required to estimate accurately their prevalence in subpopulations of interest.

The CPS December interview has been used for the past few years as the vehicle for the Food Security Supplement. An important advantage of CPS is its widespread acceptance as an authoritative source of statistical information. A second advantage is its sample size of about 50–60,000 households and its state-level representative sample. Thus one can get reliable estimates of prevalence in subpopulations of interest. A third advantage is the timeliness of the reporting of data. CPS does, however, have a number of important disadvantages. It is a survey of households; only the respondent is surveyed, so that any reports about the hunger of the individuals in the household are by proxy. A second disadvantage is that detailed income information is collected in the CPS only in the Annual Social and Economic Supplement. Household income may have changed, and that very change may have given rise to food insecurity. Household composition may have changed, resulting in the loss of income or the gain of income. As with most cross-sectional household surveys, CPS is based on dwelling units, so that subpopulations that move often would be less likely to be interviewed in both December and the Social and Economic Supplement. No health information is obtained in the CPS.

For reasons of sample size, and not necessarily the content, the panel concludes that NHANES is not an appropriate primary vehicle for monitoring the prevalence of food insecurity in the population at the national and state levels. It could be an important vehicle for a research program for understanding the relationship between food insecurity and hunger and indicators of inadequate nutrition and other health characteristics. It could also be an appropriate vehicle for the new research recommended in Chapter 3 on aspects of deprivation, alienation, and family and social interactions. As indicated in the previous section, USDA has been collaborating with NHANES in collecting data on the HFSSM and has started analyzing those data.

Recommendation 6-1: USDA should continue to collaborate with the National Center for Health Statistics to use the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to conduct research on methods

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