What is Household Food Insecurity?
Hunger can occur in many situations, including dieting and being too busy to eat. Food security is measured by the U.S. Household Food Security scale and is only concerned with hunger that results because a household does not have enough to eat. Food insecurity is a condition that results from constrained financial resources.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) definitions for food security and food insecurity:
Food Security: Access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes a minimum: 1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and 2) 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: Limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.
Why Measure Food Security?
Food security is an important indication of how well a society is doing. For much of the 20th century a U.S. domestic policy aim has been to ameliorate hunger in the United States. Food security can be viewed as part of a continuum of health and well-being, with food insecurity, hunger and undernutrition representing one side of the continuum. Measuring food security, as well as income and poverty, provides another indicator of resources available to households.
What is the US Household Food Security Scale?
The 18-item US Household Food Security scale, devised by the USDA, measures food security at both the household and child level. Reponses result in one of the following categorizations:
- High Food Security: Household shows no evidence of food insecurity.
- Marginal Food Security: one or two reported indications–typically of anxiety over food sufficiency or shortage of food in the house. Little or no indication of changes in diets or food intake.
- Low Food Security (previously known as food insecure without hunger): Food insecurity is evident in households’ attempts to manage food situation, primarily affecting the quality of the diet of members in the household.
- Very Low Food Security (previously known as food insecure with hunger)-Food intake for adults in the household has been reduced to an extent that adults have repeatedly experienced the physical sensation of hunger.
- Child Food Security (the most severe level of food security): Households with children have reduced the children’s food intake to an extent that children have experienced the physical sensation of hunger.
For more information go to http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/