The Magnitude of Hunger: In A New National Measure of Food Security

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The definition and measurement of hunger in the United States have been controversial. Two different meanings of hunger are prevalent: the traditional medical definition, associated with severe malnutrition and relevant to Third World conditions, and a social definition relevant to hunger as experienced within the United States. Progress in the 1980s toward understanding and defining the latter form or severity level of hunger, relevant to U.S. conditions, laid the basis for developing a measurement approach. Since 1992, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service has led a multiagency, public-private collaborative effort to develop and validate a new measure of food insecurity and hunger, designed for use in cross-sectional surveys at national, state, and local levels. An explanation and brief summary of findings from the baseline 1995 survey, the measurement scale, and the prevalence estimates are presented here.

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