Food Insecurity

Food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.  For many homeless individuals food security does not exist at all, and many homeless households would not receive any nutrition if it were not for emergency meal programs.

Food security includes at a minimum:

  • The ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.
  • Assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).

Food insecurity is limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

How is food security measured?

Food security within a household lies upon a continuum from very low to high. This continuum is then broken into four ranges, and is as follows:

  1. High food securityHouseholds had no problems, or anxiety about, consistently accessing adequate food.
  2. Marginal food security—Households had problems at times, or anxiety about, accessing adequate food, but the quality, variety, and quantity of their food intake were not substantially reduced.
  3. Low food security—Households reduced the quality, variety, and desirability of their diets, but the quantity of food intake and normal eating patterns were not substantially disrupted.
  4. Very low food security—At times during the year, eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake reduced because the household lacked money and other resources for food.  Most meal program participants are located in this category.

USDA Reports New 2017 Food Insecurity Data


(Definitions are from the Life Sciences Research Office, S.A. Andersen, ed., “Core Indicators of Nutritional State for Difficult to Sample Populations,” The Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 120, 1990, 1557S-1600S.)

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