Biology have served as the basis for the standardized operational definitions used for estimating food security in the United States. Food security according to the LSRO definition means access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food insecurity exists whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain. Food insecurity as measured in the United States refers to the social and economic problem of lack of food due to resource or other constraints, not voluntary fasting or dieting or because of illness or for other reasons. Although lack of economic resources is the most common constraint, food insecurity can also be experienced when food is available and accessible but cannot be used because of physical or other constraints, such as limited physical functioning by elderly people or those with disabilities.

Food insecurity is measured as a household-level concept that refers to uncertain, insufficient, or unacceptable availability, access, or utilization of food. It is therefore households that are classified as food secure or food insecure. It means that one can measure and report the number of people who are in food-insecure households (even though not everyone in the household need be food insecure themselves). When a household contains one or more food-insecure persons, the household is considered food insecure.

A full understanding of food insecurity requires the incorporation of its frequency and duration because more frequent or longer duration of periods of food insecurity indicate a more serious problem. Frequency and duration are therefore important elements for USDA to consider in the concept, operational definition, and measurement of household food insecurity and individual hunger.

The LSRO conceptual definition of hunger adopted by the interagency group on food security measurement is: “The uneasy or painful sensation caused by a lack of food, the recurrent and involuntary lack of access to food. Hunger may produce malnutrition over time…. Hunger … is a potential, although not necessary, consequence of food insecurity” (Anderson, 1990, pp. 1575, 1576). This language does not provide a clear conceptual basis for what hunger should mean as part of the measurement of food insecurity. The first phrase “the uneasy or painful sensation caused by a lack of food” refers to a possible consequence of food insecurity. The second phrase “the recurrent and involuntary lack of access to food” refers to the whole problem of food insecurity, the social and economic problem of lack of food as defined above.

Unlike food insecurity, which is a household-level concept, hunger is an individual-level concept. The Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) in the Food Security Supplement to the CPS measures food insecurity at the household level; it does not measure the condition of hunger at

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