Food Assistance & Nutrition Research Program No. (FANRR-25) 39 pp

April 2002

Measuring Children's Food Security in U.S. Households, 1995-99

The capacity to accurately measure the food security status of children in household surveys is one important tool for monitoring food insecurity and hunger at the most severe levels in U.S. households and for assessing programs designed to prevent or ameliorate these conditions. USDA has developed a children's food security scale to meet this measurement need. The scale is calculated from 8 questions in the 18-item food security survey module that ask specifically about food-related experiences and conditions of children. The scale measures the severity of food insecurity among children in surveyed households and identifies-in the most severe range of the scale-households in which children have been hungry at times because of a lack of household resources for food. The reliability of the children's food security scale is assessed, and the scale is compared with the household-level food security scale. Details are provided on how to calculate the children's food security scale from the questions in the standard food security survey module. The prevalence of hunger among children in U.S. households is estimated by applying the newly developed children's food security scale to data from the nationally representative Current Population Survey Food Security Supplements for the years 1995-99. Prevalence estimates are presented for all U.S. households and for subgroups defined by household structure, race and ethnicity, income, and rural/urban residence.

Keywords: Hunger, food security, food insecurity, children's hunger

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