the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and the National School Lunch program. The 2000–2005 strategic plan for FNS states as a goal for the agency, in delivering the food assistance programs, to reduce the prevalence of “food insecurity with hunger” among households with incomes under 130 percent of the federal poverty standard.1 Currently, FNS uses trends in the prevalence of food insecurity with hunger based on the food insecurity module included in the annual Food Security Supplement (FSS) to the Current Population Survey (CPS) as a measure of its annual performance. The panel was asked to comment on the applicability of these data for this purpose.

The mission of FNS is “to increase food security and reduce hunger in partnership with cooperating organizations by providing children and low-income people access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education in a manner that supports American agriculture and inspires public confidence.” Legislative language authorizing the Food Stamp Program in the 1977 Food Stamp Act explicitly mentions the alleviation of hunger as a program goal. Therefore, it would seem reasonable to use trends in the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger in low-income populations as performance indicators to assess whether FNS is fulfilling its mission.

Estimates of the prevalence of food insecurity or hunger—when properly designed and measured—can be helpful in determining whether a population is experiencing more or less food insecurity over time. In principle such estimates could also serve as an important tool for identifying trends and levels in food insecurity for specific subgroups of households, such as the elderly, and for different geographic areas, such as rural areas and specific regions or states. Such monitoring efforts are important because they can help to identify where additional assistance may be needed, or where it can be reduced.

The methodological and conceptual issues regarding the measurement of food insecurity and hunger have already been reviewed in this report. There are many actual and possible limitations of the CPS and all other national household surveys in sampling the lowest income households in American society. As explained in Chapter 1, as with most national household population surveys, the CPS routinely excludes people who are institutionalized and those homeless people who cannot be found in households or other living quarters visited during household surveys. The panel recognizes the likelihood of relatively high rates of food insecurity among homeless, and the resulting negative bias resulting from their exclusion. At the

1  

See Wilde (2004) for a discussion of the use of the food insecurity measure for other performance assessment tools—for example, use with the Healthy People 2010 goals.



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