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Food Insecurity and Hunger in the United States: An Assessment of the Measure
dent, and, with respect to children, it is collected by proxy for all children in the household as a group.
The Concept of Balanced Meal
The concept of “balanced meal” is included in the measurement of the concept of food insecurity based on earlier ethnographic work by Radimer, who describes interviewees expressing concerns about not having specific foods or food groups (as cited in Derrickson, Sakai, and Anderson, 2001). However, evidence from telephone interviews of charitable food recipients in Hawaii as well as previous qualitative work in initial cognitive testing with low-income food “gatekeepers” (who purchased and/or prepared food) shows that the interpretation of the concept of “balanced meal” is neither valid nor reliable as a measure of food insecurity (Derrickson et al., 2001).
Frequency and Duration of Food Insecurity
As stated in Chapter 3, frequency and duration are important elements for USDA to consider in the concept and operational definition of household food insecurity. USDA’s food security scale measures the severity of food insecurity in surveyed households and classifies their food security status during the previous year. The frequency of food insecurity and the duration of spells of insecurity are not assessed directly in the HFSSM questions used to classify households by food security status. Although some of the response options do offer choices of “often, sometimes, or never,” these response options are not sufficient measures of frequency. In addition, the FSS also includes questions about duration. The questions ask the respondent to estimate the number of days (within the past 30) the phenomenon or behavior was experienced (e.g., in the last 30 days, how many days were you hungry but didn’t eat because you couldn’t afford enough food?). These questions are not used in the 18-item HFSSM, although they have been used in research to estimate the percentage of the population that is food insecure on a given day in a given month.
A recent research study undertaken by researchers at the Economic Research Service examined the extent to which food insecurity and hunger are occasional, recurring, or frequent in U.S. households that experience them (Nord, Andrews, and Winicki, 2002). The study analyzes the supplementary data along with the scale and its constituent items using data from the August 1998 CPS supplement. The study found that, on the basis of reported frequency of occurrence of individual items, about two-thirds of the food insecurity and hunger conditions measured by the 12-month scale occurred in 3 or more months of the year. Furthermore, for about one-fifth of the households that experience conditions indicating food insecurity and