Household Food Security Survey

What does it mean to be "food insecure?" It means that you don't have reliable access to the food that you need to lead an active, healthy life. The Household Food Security Survey is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau as part of its annual Current Population Survey. It measures food access problems related to household financial resources. It is used by the USDA to research and report on food insecurity across the United States. We often talk about food insecurity as "risk of hunger."

Based on your answers to 18 questions, you may experience one of the following:

Food Security


High food security
— No problems or anxiety related to putting food on the table. 
Marginal food security — Occasional challenges or anxiety about putting food on the table, but no significant reduction in the quantity, quality and variety of the household diet.

Food Insecurity


Low food security
— Reduction in the quality, variety and desirability of foods eaten- and anxiety related to food access — but no significant disruption of normal eating patterns.
Very low food security — Reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns of one or more household members: reduced quality, variety and desirability of foods eaten and anxiety related to food access.

These are some of the questions answered by those who take the survey…

Hunger Survey Question

Sample Survey Question

"I worried whether my food would run out before I got money to buy more." Was that often true, sometimes true, or never true for your household in the last 12 months?

Hunger Fact

49 million Americans lived in food-insecure households in 2012. The national food insecurity rate rose significantly in 2008 and hasn't improved since then.*

*Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, M., & Singh, A. (2013). Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. USDA ERS.

Hunger Survey Question

Sample Survey Question

"We couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals." Was that often, sometimes, or never true for your household in the last 12 months?

Hunger Fact

Most food-insecure households have "low food security," which is a measure of food access problems, anxiety and poor nutrition rather than "missing meals."*

*Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, M., & Singh, A. (2013). Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. USDA ERS.

Hunger Survey Question

Sample Survey Question

In the last 12 months, did you or other adults in your household ever cut the size of your meals or skip meals because there wasn't enough money for food?

Yes? How often did this happen — almost every month, some months but not every month, or in only 1 or 2 months?

Hunger Fact

7 million U.S. households (5.7%) suffer from very low food security, which means that one or more household members are eating less than they should and/or missing meals.*

*Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, M., & Singh, A. (2013). Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. USDA ERS.

Hunger Survey Question

Sample Survey Question

In the last 12 months, were you ever hungry but didn't eat because there wasn't enough money for food?

Hunger Fact

The number of food-insecure adults age 50 and older increased by 40% between 2007 and 2009.*

*Ziliak, J.P. and C. Gunderson. (2011) Food Insecurity among Older Adults. Report submitted to the AARP Foundation.

Hunger Survey Question

Sample Survey Question

In the last 12 months, did you or other adults in your household ever not eat for a whole day because there wasn't enough money for food?

Yes? How often did this happen — almost every month, some months but not every month, or in only 1 or 2 months?

Hunger Fact

In each food-insecure household, family members may experience food insecurity in different ways. Children under 6, in particular, are more likely to be shielded from its worst effects, while adults in the same household often suffer more acutely.*

*Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, M., & Singh, A. (2013). Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. USDA ERS.

Hunger Survey Question

Sample Survey Question

"I relied on only a few kinds of low-cost food to feed my children because I was running out of money to buy food." Was that often, sometimes, or never true for (you/your household) in the last 12 months?

Hunger Fact

Kindergarteners who experience even minimal food insecurity at home learn less than their peers during that formative year. Those who experience higher food insecurity fall even farther behind.*

*Winicki, j. & Jemison, K. (2003) “Food Insecurity and Hunger in the Kindergarten Classroom: Its Effect on Learning and Growth.” Contemporary Economic Policy, Vol 21. No 2.

Hunger Survey Question

Sample Survey Question

In the last 12 months, did you ever cut the size of any of the children's meals because there wasn't enough money for food?

Hunger Fact

Children who suffer from very low food security are twice as likely to require special educational services, which can be nearly double the cost of a mainstream public education.*†

*Kleinman, R., et al. (1998) Hunger in Children in the United States: Potential Behavioral and Emotional Correlates. Pediatrics, Vol. 101 No. 1.
†Cook, J. & Jeng, K. (2010) Child Food Insecurity: The Economic Impact on our Nation. Commissioned by Feeding America and the ConAgra Foods Foundation.

Hunger Survey Question

Sample Survey Question

In the last 12 months, was your child ever hungry but you just couldn't afford more food?

Yes? How often did this happen — almost every month, some months but not every month, or in only 1 or 2 months?

Hunger Fact

In 2012, 40% of food-insecure households had not participated in the largest federal nutrition programs in the previous month: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), WIC and the National School Lunch Program.*

*Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, M., & Singh, A. (2013). Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. USDA ERS.

North Texas Food Bank 4500 S. Cockrell Hill Road Dallas, TX 75236-2028 214.330.1396 (MAP IT)

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