During the two years this panel has met, it has reviewed a large number of research reports and journal articles, government studies, and relevant internal unpublished papers provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Experts in the field participated in a large workshop organized by the panel and addressed the panel during its meetings. In this report, the panel has examined the issues that surfaced in the workshop, by USDA, by the panel’s own discussions, and in other ways.
The panel is impressed with the extensive research thus far undertaken and with the continuing program of research carried out by USDA. It urges USDA to continue the research program and makes recommendations for its direction in the future.
The panel concludes that the measurement of food insecurity and of hunger is important. The recommendations in the preceding chapters are intended to improve this measurement, so that policy makers and the public can be better informed. Toward this end, it has recommended research efforts that should lead to improved concepts, definitions, and measurement of food insecurity and hunger in this country. The panel has provided a detailed discussion of the analytical methods used by USDA and made recommendations for modifying the model currently used by USDA and recommends further research that would lead to improved accuracy of the insecurity scale. The panel has also recommended research and testing to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the major national surveys in relation to the Current Population Survey in order to determine the best survey vehicle for the Food Security Supplement. At the same time it recognizes that such research will take time.
Overall, the panel concludes that the highest research priority is to develop a clear conceptual definition of hunger and to determine how best to implement the new definition, to study the manner in which item response theory models are applied to the data so that the classification structure better reflects the data collected in the FSS, and to take advantage of new developments in cognitive questionnaire design in evaluation and testing of the questions asked.
The panel commends USDA and its collaborating agencies for the careful and extensive work that went into the development of a standard food security measure. It is unusual for an agency to undertake such comprehensive research prior to the start of a survey, and the panel has been very impressed by much that has been done. The panel further recognizes USDA’s continuing efforts to study, evaluate, and improve the measure. The additional research proposed by the panel builds on some of the work that USDA has already done. In addition, over the 10 years since the survey was launched there have been advances in survey design, questionnaire development, and modeling. The panel concludes that some of the new research suggested in the report could be especially useful, particularly in the key areas identified in the report.
Finally, the panel hopes that the points made in this report contribute toward development of a revised, efficient, and more cost-effective system for monitoring the prevalence of food insecurity in the United States. In addition, the suggestions for new research should help to link a household’s food insecurity status with research to answer the important question about the broader health, socioeconomic, and psychological consequences of food insecurity in the United States.