Food Security

Food security is defined as having access at all times to enough nutritionally adequate and safe foods to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.1 Food security is measured through a series of indicators such as whether people worry that food would run out before there would be money to buy more; whether an individual or his/her family cut the size of meals or skipped meals because there was not enough money for food; and whether an individual or his/her family ever went a whole day without eating as there was not enough food. In 2006, an estimated 35.5 million people lived in households that were classified as not fully food secure. Households or persons experiencing food insecurity may be categorized as experiencing low food security or very low food security (formerly referred to as “food insecurity with hunger”). Low food security generally indicates multiple food access issues, while very low food security indicates reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns due to inadequate resources for food. Periods of low or very low food security may be occasional or episodic, placing the members of a household at greater nutritional risk due to insufficient access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods.

In 2005–2006, nearly 17 percent of women were not fully food secure, and this percentage varied by race and ethnicity. Among women, non-Hispanic Whites were most likely to be fully food secure (89.4 percent), while Hispanics were least likely (62.2 percent). Non-Hispanic Black women had the highest rate of very low food security (5.6 percent), and Hispanic women had the highest rates of being marginally food secure and having low food security (20.2 and 14.6 percent, respectively). Food security status also varies by household composition. While adult men and women living alone had similar rates of food insecurity in 2006, female-headed households with no spouse present were more likely than male heads of households with no spouse present to experience food insecurity (30.4 versus 17.0 percent, respectively).

1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Food Security in the United States: Measuring Household Food Security, [online] Nov 2007., accessed 07/31/08.

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