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Food Insecurity and Hunger in the United States: An Assessment of the Measure
of monitoring and statistical analysis of the food security of the U.S. population: (1) food secure, (2) food insecure without hunger, and (3) food insecure with hunger.
The USDA estimates, published in a series of annual reports, are widely used by government agencies, the media, and advocacy groups to report the extent of food insecurity and hunger in the United States, to monitor progress toward national objectives, to evaluate the impact of particular public policies and programs, as a standard by which the performance of USDA programs is measured, and as a basis for a diverse body of research relating to food assistance programs.
In addition, USDA has a program of research for improving the measurement and understanding of food security. Despite these efforts, some major questions continue to be raised regarding the underlying concepts, the estimation methods, and the design and clarity of the questions used to construct the food insecurity scale.
USDA requested the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies to convene a panel of experts to undertake a two-year study in two phases to review at this 10-year mark the concepts and methodology for measuring food insecurity and hunger and the uses of the measures. The specific tasks to be addressed in Phase 1 of the study were:
the appropriateness of a household survey as a vehicle for monitoring on a regular basis the prevalence of food insecurity among the general population and within broad population subgroups, including measuring frequency and duration;
the appropriateness of identifying hunger as a severe range of food insecurity in such a survey-based measurement method;
the appropriateness, in principle and in application, of item response theory and the Rasch model as a statistical basis for measuring food insecurity;
the appropriateness of the threshold scores that demarcate food insecurity categories—particularly the categories “food insecure with hunger” and “food insecure with hunger among children”—and the labeling and interpretation of each category;
the applicability of the current measure of the prevalence of food insecurity with hunger for assessing the effectiveness of USDA food assistance programs, in connection with the Government Performance and Results Act performance goals for the Food and Nutrition Service; and