hold food security scale and then to estimate the prevalence of food insecurity (see Box 2-1). This set of questions appears in the section on food sufficiency and security in the FSS.
The questions in the HFSSM have remained essentially unchanged over the years. These questions elicit information on whether the household experienced difficulty in meeting basic food needs due to a lack of resources. The severity of the food access problems covered by the food insecurity questions ranges from “worry about running out of food” to “children ever not eating for a whole day.” The questions specify that any behavior or condition must be due to a lack of economic or other resources to obtain food, so the scale is not affected by hunger due to voluntary dieting, fasting, or being too busy to eat or other similar reasons. In an effort to keep respondent burden and annoyance low and at the same time not miss very many food-insecure households, the food insecurity questions and questions about ways of augmenting inadequate food resources are asked only of households with incomes below 185 percent of the federal poverty line and of households with incomes above that line if they give any indication of food access problems on either of the two screener questions (described in Chapter 4). Households with annual incomes above 185 percent of the poverty line and who give no indication of food access problems on these preliminary screener questions (one at the start of the section on food assistance program and participation, and the second at the start of the section on food sufficiency and security) are presumed to be food secure and are not asked subsequent questions. USDA analysis has shown that, given the screeners, only a very small number of food-insecure households are missed.
USDA undertook a considerable amount of research after fielding the supplement in 1995. As a condition of the Terms of Clearance for the April 1995 Food Security Supplement to the CPS, the Office of Management and Budget requested that the Census Bureau’s Center for Survey Methods Research conduct an evaluation of the supplement questionnaire. Hess and colleagues (1996) conducted the evaluation, compared the results to those obtained during a pretest of the questionnaire conducted in August 1994, and provided recommendations for revising the questionnaire based on their evaluation.
Initial analysis of the data from the 1995 FSS was undertaken by Abt Associates, Inc., through a contract with USDA, and in consultation with the interagency working group on food security measurement and other key researchers involved in developing the questionnaire. The analysis focused on developing and implementing a measure of the severity of food insecurity. The aim was to help develop and assess a scale based on the FSS