Assessing Food Insecurity in Kentucky
Research Center: Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi State University
Investigator: Kurzynske, Janet S., and Suzanne A. McGough
Institution: University of Kentucky
Janet S. Kurzynske
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40546-0064
606-255-8640, fax 606-258-2670
The purpose of this study is to measure the nature and
extent of food insecurity in Kentucky using a relatively
inexpensive, reliable survey method. The authors used
the University of Kentucky Phone Survey, a telephone
survey of approximately 1260 Kentucky households in
which each residential telephone line has as an equal
chance of being contacted. The survey was conducted
in March/April and July 1999. The authors modified
food security questions from the National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III for their
survey. They asked respondents to provide answers
that represented their own and their family’s experience.
Five questions were asked, including one question
specifically concerning children in the household.
Survey respondents were representative of the demographics
of the State, with a small over-representation
of higher income and educated people due to phone
access. To compensate for this, results were statistically
weighted to account for the population without
The authors classified households as food insecure
when the respondents answered that they and their
family sometimes or often did not have enough to eat.
The results showed an estimated 6.5 percent of
Kentucky households were food insecure, with 1.1 percent
responding positively to “often not having enough
to eat” and 5.4 percent responding to “sometimes not
having enough to eat.” Sixty-six percent of food insecure
households indicated experiencing at least one
day in the past 12 months without food or money to
buy food. Of those indicating at least one day without
food, 88.5 percent reported that this was due to not
having enough money, food stamps, or WIC vouchers.
Households with children had more than double the
rate of food insecurity as households without children.
The proportion of food-insecure minority households
was 14.5 percent, almost triple the non-Hispanic white
level of 5.2 percent.
The results of the Kentucky survey are not directly
comparable to national survey data on food insecurity.
However, Kurzynske and McGough found that foodinsecure
households in Kentucky have demographic
characteristics similar to national samples: they are
the poor, those with less formal education, families
with children, minorities, and Food Stamp and WIC
program participants. They conclude that the
Kentucky Research Survey Center’s telephone survey
of Kentucky households is a relatively inexpensive,
expedient method to monitor State food insecurity