What is the Hunger Vital Sign™?

In 2010, Drs. Erin Hager and Anna Quigg and the Children’s HealthWatch team developed the Hunger Vital Sign™, a 2-question screening tool based on the US Household Food Security Scale to identify young children in households at risk of food insecurity.

The Hunger Vital Sign™ identifies individuals and families as being at risk for food insecurity if they answer that either or both of the following two statements is ‘often true’ or ‘sometimes true’ (vs. ‘never true’):

“ Within the past 12 months we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.”

“ Within the past 12 months the food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more.”

The peer-reviewed journal article on the Hunger Vital Sign™ has been cited in over one-hundred publications since its release and the screening tool has been used widely in medical settings around the country.  In October 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement, recommending that pediatricians screen all children for food insecurity. In May 2017, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services incorporated the Hunger Vital Sign™ in the Accountable Health Communities Screening Tool.

What does the Hunger Vital Sign™ tell us?

The Hunger Vital Sign™ measures families’ concerns about and access to food, much the way health care providers check other key vital signs, such as pulse and blood pressure.

How can I use the Hunger Vital Sign™?

Healthcare providers, social service providers, community-based outreach workers, teachers, and anyone who works with young children can use the Hunger Vital Sign™ to identify young children and families who may need assistance.

Hunger Vital Sign™ resources:

Peer-reviewed journal articles:

  • Pediatrics journal article on The Hunger Vital Sign™, click here.

Research/policy briefs and reports:

  • The Hunger Vital Sign™ policy action brief, click here.
  • Cultivating Healthy Communities policy action brief, click here.
  • Addressing Food Insecurity in Health Care Settings:  Key Actions & Tools for Success, click here.
  • Addressing Food Insecurity: A Toolkit for Pediatricians (from FRAC and AAP), click here.
  • Whitepaper — Hunger Vital Sign™: Best practices for screening and intervening to alleviate food insecurity, click here.
    • Case Study #1 — Hennepin County Medical Center, click here.
    • Case Study #2 — Boston Medical Center, click here.
  • SIREN Issue Brief: Identifying Food Insecurity in Health Care Settings: A Review of the Evidence, click here.


  • English/Spanish translation of The Hunger Vital Sign™, click here.
  • Additional translations of The Hunger Vital Sign™ (multiple languages), click here.

Examples of Hunger Vital Sign™ use by theme

Is your work not on this page?  Please let us know about how you are using the Hunger Vital Sign™!