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Food Insecurity and Hunger in the United States: An Assessment of the Measure
of measuring household food insecurity and individual hunger and the consequences for nutritional intake and other relevant health measures.
In Chapter 3 the panel concluded that food insecurity is a household-level concept. It is rooted in the lack of economic resources in a household. Hunger is distinct from food insecurity and is an individual-level concept. Both measures are important, and to measure both concepts, the panel recommends that USDA should undertake a research program on how best to measure individual hunger and other important consequences of food insecurity. The CPS cannot now be used to measure hunger in the population because it interviews only the household respondent. While the CPS can ask the household respondent about his or her experience with hunger, no one respondent is likely to be representative of all adults in the household.
The NHIS interviews a randomly chosen adult who can be asked about his or her experience with hunger. NHIS is based on a probability sample; one can use the responses to estimate the prevalence of hunger in the adult population. With the randomly chosen child, one can estimate the prevalence of hunger among children. Similarly, the consequences to individuals of food insecurity or hunger, such as health problems and social exclusion or alienation, can be ascertained from the interviews. Another major positive aspect of the NHIS is its extensive measures of health, which could be linked to food insecurity or hunger.
Recall bias is also a concern about the current reliance on the December CPS. Asking a respondent to recall instances of food insecurity over a 12-month period is likely to produce recall bias, in which the respondent overweights the current situation. This bias is probably exacerbated by the measurement of food insecurity in the December CPS because December is not representative of the experience over the whole year. Although the FSS has probe questions and questions about a 30-day recall, the NHIS collects data across the entire year (which increases the cost of the supplement to USDA) and also has the capability to estimate the frequency and duration of food insecurity. Ultimately, USDA would need to weigh comparative costs and benefits, timeliness, and the ability to include the supplement on a regular basis in the NHIS, among other issues.
Recommendation 6-2: USDA should carefully review the strengths and weaknesses of the National Health Interview Survey in relation to the Current Population Survey in order to determine the best possible survey vehicle for the Food Security Supplement at a future date. In the meantime, the Food Security Supplement should continue to be conducted in the Current Population Survey.