The conference identified the initial consensus among the participants on the appropriate conceptual basis for a national measure of food insecurity and on the technical means and feasibility of measuring hunger and food insecurity. The participants decided that food insecurity was the most important concept to measure, but some in the group held that hunger should be part of the measurement project as a device for advocacy (Habicht et al., 2004). The conference also resulted in a working agreement on several key issues, previously unresolved, as to the best measurement approach for implementation of a measure in national data collection, and the optimal content and form of a food security survey instrument for application at the national level. Conference participants decided:
to limit the measure to clearly poverty-linked or resource-constrained food insecurity and hunger and not attempt to measure hunger resulting from reasons other than resource constraints;
to limit operational definitions and measurement approach to those aspects of food security that can be captured in household-level surveys;
to focus on the behavioral and experiential dimensions of food insecurity and hunger (which were seen as the major gap in existing information and an essential component for policy makers);
to estimate the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger from the resulting data by scaling items into a single measure across all observed levels of severity of the phenomenon being measured if feasible; and
to develop a standard set of prevalence estimates at several designated levels of severity for consistent application and comparison across data sets from year to year. Participants further noted that agencies involved in collecting individual-level data might develop complementary approaches for measuring food insecurity at the specific individual level, whereas issues of community food security would require a different data collection strategy and orientation, outside the scope of the present effort (Hamilton et al., 1997a).
As a follow-up to the conference, USDA held additional meetings with the interagency working group, interested conference participants, and the Census Bureau staff to further explore, develop, and expand on the themes articulated in the conference. In order to follow up on the technical issues surfaced during the conference, USDA also commissioned additional analytical work based on two independent data sets of comprehensive hunger and food insecurity indicator items: the data set developed by the research group at Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences and the data