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Food Insecurity and Hunger in the United States: An Assessment of the Measure
The four-month intervals between SIPP interviews make it well suited to ask about intervals of food insecurity and/or hunger over both short intervals such as last week or last month, or over the last four months. Because SIPP measures contemporaneous income, analysis can find the relationships between income and food insecurity and/or hunger. This could be particularly important to find the direct effects of income loss via, say, unemployment or a health shock and to separate out short-term from long-term food insecurity.
CPS is limited in its ability to obtain information that would permit the scientific study of the antecedents and consequences of food insecurity and hunger. Such studies require panel data, such as in SIPP. Panel data would provide an additional benefit to USDA. They would permit a better assessment of the success of such programs as food stamps, because analysts could study the dynamics of economic need, food insecurity, and subsequent relief due to food stamps.
The panel recognizes that in an era of budgetary constraints it would be difficult for USDA to accomplish all the goals of reliably measuring food insecurity prevalence, hunger and their dynamics. But we note that not all measures need to be collected at all times. In particular, USDA should explore the feasibility of a one-time multiwave study using SIPP to examine the dynamic relationships among income, food insecurity, and hunger. Especially useful would be a study of the persistence of food insecurity and hunger, including its prevalence and frequency. The four-month interviewing cycle of SIPP should provide much more accurate information than the CPS. In addition, data from the shorter recall period could be compared with those from a 12-month recall period to study any bias in the current 12-month recall design.
Recommendation 6-3: USDA should explore the feasibility of funding a one-time panel study, preferably using the Survey of Income and Program Participation, to establish the relationship between household food insecurity and individual hunger and how they co-evolve with income and health.