highly correlated with the distribution of food energy available for consumption obtained directly from the national food energy balance sheets when national population size is taken into account (Smith, 1998). Thus the two measurements, one from the energy balance sheets and one from the prevalence of undernourishment, are redundant. That is, the FAO method for estimating undernourishment measures only food energy availability, but not consumption of (or access to) food by households.

The discovery that people frequently did not have enough to eat according to accepted cultural norms created a conceptual crisis. Either the food problems of poor people were imaginary, or other concepts were needed to describe and measure them. An intuitively understandable construct was hunger defined as a physical pain. This word has typically and historically been used not only to refer to the physical sensation, but also to a feeling of weakness from not eating. As stated in the previous chapter, beginning in the 1960s, the word hunger began to take on a wider meaning. It was expanded to encompass issues of access to food and socioeconomic deprivation related to food. Perhaps because these expanded referents seemed less compatible with the intuitive meaning of hunger, other constructs were needed. It is in this context that the phrase food insecurity came into use in the United States. Internationally, food insecurity was already current. Originally, it was used to describe the instability of national or regional food supplies over time (Pelletier, Olson, and Frongillo, 2001; Rose, Basiotis, and Klein, 1995). It was then expanded to include a lack of secure provisions at the household and individual levels.

Figure 3-1 depicts the core concepts related to nutritional state that were established at the commencement of the U.S. national nutritional monitoring system (Anderson, 1990).


As described in the previous chapter, the broad conceptual definitions of food security and insecurity developed by the expert panel convened in 1989 by the Life Sciences Research Office (LSRO) 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 to enough food for an active, healthy life. It includes at a minimum (a) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods and (b) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (e.g., without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies). 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.

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