This page provides the following resources:
- The Guide
- U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module
- U.S. Adult Food Security Survey Module
- Six-Item Short Form of the Food Security Survey Module
- Self-Administered Food Security Survey Module for Youth Ages 12 and Older
- Spanish Translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module
- Chinese Translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module
- CPS Food Security Supplements
- Technical Reports and Food Security Measurement Research
The survey tools will allow researchers to:
- Adapt the module to their survey context.
- Edit and code responses.
- Calculate household summary measures of food security: food security scale scores and food security status.
Using these standardized modules and procedures will strengthen validity and reliability of the resulting measures and assure maximum comparability with national statistics on food security and hunger.
Guide to Measuring Household Food Security (Revised 2000)—The Guide is the most authoritative and accessible resource on how to measure household food security. It provides detailed guidance for researchers on how to use the survey module to measure food security and food insecurity. Statistics from surveys that use these methods will be directly comparable to published national statistics. This Guide supersedes the Guide to Implementing the Core Food Security Module, published by USDA in 1997. Please note changes since publication of the Guide that are described below.
The Guide includes:
- Food security measurement concepts.
- Theoretical and statistical underpinnings of the methodology.
- Specifications for coding and scoring items.
Notes on Changes
Since publication of the Guide, USDA has introduced new labels for describing ranges of food security and food insecurity (high, marginal, low, and very low food security). These labels are consistent with recommendations by the Committee on National Statistics, and USDA, ERS recommends that they be used consistently throughout the U.S. food security monitoring and research effort.
Food Security Survey Modules
Since publication of the Guide, there have been minor changes in wording of questions, and the order of presentation of questions has been changed. Use the modules below rather than those in the Guide to include these changes.
(18 items) Three-stage design with screeners. Screening keeps respondent burden to the minimum needed to get reliable data. Most households in a general population survey are asked only three questions (five if there are children in the household). The questionnaire has been modified slightly from that in the Guide, and the questions have been re-ordered to group the child-referenced questions after the adult-referenced questions; download it in PDF or Microsoft Word.
(10 items) Three-stage design with screeners. Screening keeps respondent burden to the minimum needed to get reliable data. Most households in a general population survey are asked only three questions. The questionnaire has been modified very slightly from that specified for households without children in the Guide; download it in PDF or Microsoft Word.
- Less respondent burden.
- Improves comparability of food security statistics between households with and without children and among households with children in different age ranges.
- Avoids asking questions about children's food security, which can be sensitive in some survey contexts.
- Does not provide specific information on food security of children.
For surveys that cannot implement the 18-item or 10-item measures, this "Short Form" 6-item scale provides a reasonably reliable substitute. It uses a subset of the standard 18 items. This is the same 6-item questionnaire that is in the Guide; download it in PDF or Microsoft Word.
- Less respondent burden for food-insecure households. Can be screened after three items to reduce burden for households with no food access problems.
- Prevalence estimates of food insecurity and very low food security are only minimally biased relative to those based on 18-item or 10-item modules.
- Standard short form with known relationship to full module.
- Less precise and somewhat less reliable than 18-item measure.
- Does not measure the most severe levels of food insecurity.
- Does not ask about conditions of children in the household.
This survey module was adapted from the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module for self-administration by children ages 12 and older. Development and assessment of the module is described in Carol L. Connell, Mark Nord, Kristi L. Lofton, and Kathy Yadrick, 2004, "Food Security of Older Children Can Be Assessed Using a Standardized Survey Instrument," The Journal of Nutrition 134:2,566–2,572. Download the questionnaire in PDF or Microsoft Word.
A Spanish translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module was developed by USDA researchers from previous translations by researchers at UCLA and the National Center for Health Statistics. USDA, ERS recommends this translation for use among Spanish-speaking populations within the United States. Download the questionnaire in PDF or Microsoft Word.
A Chinese translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module was developed by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco in collaboration with USDA, ERS and documented in Christine M.L. Kwan, Anna M. Napoles, Jeyling Chou, and Hilary K. Seligman, 2015, "Development of a conceptually equivalent Chinese-language translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module for Chinese immigrants to the USA," Public Health Nutrition 18(2): 242–250; and Courtney R. Lyles, Mark Nord, Jeyling Chou, Christine M.L. Kwan and Hilary K. Seligman, 2015, "The San Francisco Chinese Food Security Module: Validation of a Translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module," Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition 10(2):189–201. USDA, ERS recommends that this translation be used among Chinese-speaking adults within the United States. Download the questionnaire in PDF or Microsoft Word.
Additional questionnaire items about food security, food sufficiency, food expenditures, use of food programs, and other ways of coping with food insecurity are included in the CPS Food Security Supplements but are not in the core food security module. Go to the Food Security in the United States data product to download any of the CPS Food Security Supplement Questionnaires in English, or download a Spanish translation in PDF or Microsoft Word.Analysis of the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement Split-Panel Test
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has monitored the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households for more than 25 years. Data on food security is collected annually as part of the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement (CPS-FSS). USDA, Economic Research Service undertook a process to update the survey instrument used for the CPS-FSS data collection. An updated survey instrument was created through a process of expert content review and cognitive testing. The revised survey instrument was implemented by the U.S. Census Bureau in a split-panel data collection test in September 2020. The split panel formed two samples that were weighted to represent the U.S. population. Estimates for food spending, food security, and participation in Federal and community nutrition assistance were compared across the two samples. The analysis confirmed that the minor changes to the food security section are unlikely to affect the measurement of food insecurity, or affect comparability of estimates from year-to-year.
“Using a Bifactor Model to Measure Food Insecurity in Households With Children”
This study explores the dimensionality of U.S. food security measures using bifactor measurement models estimated on a sample of low-income households with children from the CPS Food Security Supplement. Findings suggest the Household Food Security Survey Module captures a single dimension of food security for households with children. The reliability of specific factor scores reflecting subscales for the adult and child items were very low, and the analyses suggest using caution in interpreting separate subscale scores. (Victoria T. Tanaka, George Engelhard Jr, and Matthew P. Rabbitt, “Using a Bifactor Model to Measure Food Insecurity in Households With Children,” Journal of Family and Economic Issues 41: 492–504 (2020)).
“Modeling Household Food Insecurity with a Polytomous Rasch Model”
The purpose of this study is to explore modeling polytomous Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) items with a partial credit model, building on Nord’s work on the partial credit model and the HFSSM (Assessing potential technical enhancements to the U.S. household food security measures. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2012). The polytomous Rasch model is compared to the dichotomous Rasch model currently used by the USDA. The use of a polytomous model increases the precision of the estimates of food insecurity. (Victoria T. Tanaka, George Engelhard Jr., and Matthew P. Rabbitt. (2020), “Modeling Household Food Insecurity with a Polytomous Rasch Model.” In: Marie Wiberg, Dylan Molenaar, Jorge González, Ulf Böckenholt, and Jee-Seon Kim. (eds), Quantitative Psychology. IMPS 2019. Springer Proceedings in Mathematics & Statistics, Vol 322. Springer, Cham.)
“Are We Underestimating Food Insecurity? Partial Identification with a Bayesian 4-Parameter IRT Model.”
This paper addresses measurement error in food security in the United States. In particular, it uses a Bayesian 4-parameter IRT model to look at the likelihood of over- or underreporting the conditions that comprise the food security module. Results suggest significant underreporting of more severe food security items, particularly those in the child module. The study finds no evidence of overreporting of food hardships. The author shows that under conservative assumptions this model predicts food insecurity prevalence between 1 and 3 percentage points higher than current estimates, or roughly 4 to 15 percent of prevalence, for the years 2007–15. Results suggest much larger increases—on the order of 50 percent of prevalence—for very low food security among households that were screened into the food security module. (Gregory, Christian A., “Are We Underestimating Food Insecurity? Partial Identification with a Bayesian 4-Parameter IRT Model,” Journal of Classification. 37:632–655 (2020)).
“Causal Inference with Latent Variables from the Rasch Model as Outcomes”
This article discusses and compares several methods for estimating the parameters of a latent regression model when one of the explanatory variables is an endogenous binary (treatment) variable. Traditional methods based on two-stage least squares and the Tobit selection model where the dependent variable is an estimate of the latent variable from the Rasch model are compared to the behavioral Rasch selection model. The properties of these methods are examined using simulated data and empirical examples based on child food insecurity and SNAP participation are included to demonstrate the usefulness of the behavioral Rasch selection model for research in the social sciences. The empirical examples demonstrate the importance of addressing endogenous explanatory variables in latent regressions for Item Response Theory (IRT) models when estimating causal differences in the latent variable or examining differential item functioning. (Matthew P. Rabbitt, “Causal Inference with Latent Variables from the Rasch Model as Outcomes,” Measurement 120:193–205 (2018)).
“Using Household Fit Indices to Examine the Psychometric Quality of Food Insecurity Measures”
This study focuses on model/data fit with a particular emphasis on household-level fit within the context of measuring household food insecurity. Household fit indices are used to examine the psychometric quality of household-level measures of food insecurity. The implications of this study for future research, theory, and policy related to the measurement of household food insecurity are discussed. (George Engelhard Jr., Matthew P. Rabbitt, and Emily M. Engelhard, “Using Household Fit indices to Examine the Psychometric Quality of Food Insecurity Measures,” Educational and Psychological Measurement 78(6):1,089–1,107 (2017)).
“Rasch Analyses of the Standardized Spanish Translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module”
This article examines whether the implementation of a standardized Spanish-language Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) affects comparisons of food insecurity measures between Hispanic and non-Hispanic White households. While differences in the measured severity of food insecurity between Hispanic and non-Hispanic White households were small, implementation of the standardized Spanish-HFSSM improved the reliability and performance of the food insecurity items. Concerns about the bias associated with differences in the measured severity of food insecurity between these groups were assessed and found to be negligible, suggesting the Spanish- and English-language HFSSMs produce comparable measures of food insecurity. (Matthew P. Rabbitt and Alisha Coleman-Jensen, “Rasch Analyses of the Standardized Spanish Translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module,” Journal of Economic and Social Measurement 42(2):171–187 (2017)).Examining an "Experimental" Food Security Status Classification Method for Households with Children
USDA, ERS researchers developed an alternative "experimental" classification method for classifying food security status in households with children. This approach reduces statistical biases inherent in the current classification approach and improves fit to the Rasch measurement model and its assumptions. In this technical report, USDA, ERS evaluates how well the food-security-status categories correlate with other food inadequacy and nutritional indicators. Results show that the current classification is more consistent with indicators of food inadequacy (September 2017).
"Improving Food Security Classification of Households with Children"
This study examines the extent to which the household food security classification methods currently used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture may bias comparisons of food security between households with and without children and between households with children of different ages. An alternative method for classifying the food security status of households with children is described; this method removes the source of those biases by considering the food security of adults and children based on separate measures. Using data from the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplements, the analysis suggests that the current methods may have overstated the prevalence of food insecurity and understated the prevalence of very low food security in households with children vis-à-vis households without children. (Mark Nord and Alisha Coleman-Jensen, "Improving Food Security Classification of Households with Children," Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition 9(3):318–333 (2014).)
"Youth Are Less Likely to be Food Insecure than Adults in the Same Household"
This study compares self-reported personal food insecurity of youths (ages 12–17) and adults in the same or similar households using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data. Youths are found to be considerably less likely to be food insecure than adults in the same household, and the youth–adult difference is greater when food insecurity is assessed at a severe level. (Mark Nord, "Youth Are Less Likely to be Food Insecure than Adults in the Same Household," Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition 8(2):146–163 (2013)).Assessing Potential Technical Enhancements to the U.S. Household Food Security Measures
Based on recommendations by a panel convened by the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies, this report assesses five potential technical enhancements to the methods USDA uses to measure household food security. The study findings suggest that introducing more complex statistical models would improve measurement of food security little, if at all, while making results and methods more difficult to explain to policy officials and the public (December 2012).
“Caregiver Reports of Adolescents' Food Security and Adolescents' Own Reports”
In this study of 395 adolescents ages 15 to 17 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, adolescents' self-reported food insecurity was more common than, and only weakly associated with, adult proxy reports of those adolescents' food insecurity. (Mark Nord and Karla Hanson, "Adult Caregiver Reports of Adolescents' Food Security Do Not Agree Well with Adolescents' Own Reports," Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition 7(4):363–380 (2012)).
“Measuring Children's Food Security”
This article in the Journal of Nutrition describes the development and recent improvements in methods for measuring children's food security. (Mark Nord and Heather Hopwood, "Recent Advances Provide Improved Tools for Measuring Children's Food Security," Journal of Nutrition 137:533–536 (2007)).
"Does Interview Mode Matter for Food Security Measurement? Telephone Versus In-Person Interviews in the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement"
This article demonstrates that telephone and in-person food security interviews in the Current Population Survey are comparable with small, or at most modest, differences. (Mark Nord and Heather Hopwood, "Does Interview Mode Matter for Food Security Measurement? Telephone Versus In-Person Interviews in the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement," Public Health Nutrition 10 (12):1,474-1,480 (August 2007)).
An extensive review was conducted at USDA's request by an independent panel of experts convened by the National Research Council's Committee on National Statistics to ensure that USDA's data collection and methodology in the areas of food security and hunger are relevant and scientifically sound (2006).
"Food Security of Older Children Can Be Assessed by Using a Standardized Survey Instrument"
This article describes the development and assessment of a food security survey module adapted for self-administration by children 12 and older. Questions were adapted from the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module, refined through focus groups and cognitive interviews, and tested in a pilot survey. The abstract is available from the American Society for Nutrition. The questionnaire is available on this site. (Carol L. Connell, Mark Nord, Kristi L. Lofton, and Kathy Yadrick, "Food Security of Older Children Can Be Assessed Using a Standardized Survey Instrument," The Journal of Nutrition 134:2,566-2,572 (2004)).
Spanish Translation of the Food Security Survey Module
A Spanish translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module developed by UCLA researchers is available from the Journal of Nutrition, the American Society for Nutrition. "Development of a Spanish-Language Version of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module" (April 2003). USDA researchers revised and adapted UCLA’s earlier translation and recommend this Spanish translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module for use among Spanish-speaking populations within the United States (see U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module—Spanish).
"Measuring the Food Security of Elderly Persons"
This article in Family Economics and Nutrition Review assesses the appropriateness of the U.S. Food Security Scale for measuring the food security of elderly people. Based on analysis of 3 years of data from the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement, the findings indicate that the Food Security Scale fairly represents the food security status of the elderly compared with that of the nonelderly. (Nord, M., "Measuring the Food Security of Elderly Persons," Family Economics and Nutrition Review 15 (1), USDA, Center for Policy and Promotion (2003)).A 30-Day Food Security Scale for Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement Data
This report describes and assesses a 30-day household food security scale that can be applied specifically to the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement (CPS-FSS) data collected between 1995 and 2004. The report specifies procedures for calculating the revised 30-day scale from CPS-FSS data and classifying households as to 30-day food security status (August 2002).Household Food Security in the United States, 1998 and 1999: Technical Report
This report explores key technical issues related to Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement data, focusing on the August 1998 and April 1999 surveys. Technical issues include the estimation of standard errors, the effect of alternating survey periods between spring and fall for the 1995–99 CPS Supplement, and the effect of using different Item Response Theory (IRT) modeling approaches and software to create the food security scale (June 2002).Measuring Children's Food Security in U.S. Households, 1995-99
This report describes the Children's Food Security Scale developed by USDA and presents statistics on the prevalence of hunger among children in U.S. households for the years 1995–99 as well as for subgroups defined by household structure, race and ethnicity, income, and rural/urban residence. The report provides detailed information on how to implement the scale in other surveys (April 2002).
This guide provides detailed guidance for researchers on how to use the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module to measure household food security and food insecurity at various levels of severity. Statistics from surveys that use these methods will be directly comparable with published national statistics (March 2002).
This report examines the stability of the food security measurement scale over time and across different types of households, the thresholds used to classify households as to their food security status, screening issues related to ensuring comparability of food security statistics among the 1995–97 CPS food security supplements, and alternative imputation strategies for dealing with missing data (December 2001).Second Food Security Measurement and Research Conference, Volume 1: Proceedings Second Food Security Measurement and Research Conference, Volume II: Papers
This two-volume set documents the Second Food Security Measurement and Research Conference (February 23–24, 1999) that sought to establish a stable measurement strategy to monitor the food security status of the U.S. population. Volume I contains abbreviated proceedings of all presentations. Volume II contains a set of research papers that provide further detail on the research findings presented at the conference (February 2001).
This document describes the analysis through which the food security scales and food security status variable were developed, as well as related tests of the reliability and validity of these measures (September 1997).