Determining food security status
We introduced a method of interpreting the data from the Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) with the publication of Canadian Community Health Survey, Cycle 2.2, Nutrition (2004) - Income-Related Household Food Security in Canada. We have since updated our approach to interpreting the data.
On this page
- Categories of food security status
- Food security status at the adult, child and household level
- Food security status
Categories of food security status
The HFSSM asks about the household’s experiences of food insecurity during the previous year. These experiences include:
- worrying about running out of food before there is money to buy more
- cutting the size or skipping meals because there wasn’t enough money for food
- going a whole day without eating because there wasn’t enough money for food
The survey module asks about the experiences of adults and of children.
Depending on the presence and extent of the experience, households can be classified into one of the 4 following categories:
- food secure
- food insecure, marginal
- food insecure, moderate
- food insecure, severe
The categories of “food insecure, moderate” and “food insecure, severe” have been combined into an overall category of “food insecure” as they reflect disruptions in the food consumed.
These households had access, at all times throughout the previous year, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
Food insecure, marginal
At times during the previous year these households had indications of worry about running out of food and/or limited food selection due to a lack of money for food.
Food insecure, moderate
At times during the previous year these households had indications of compromise in quality and/or quantity of food consumed.
Food insecure, severe
At times during the previous year these households had indications of reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns.
Food security status at the adult, child and household level
The HFSSM determines the food security status of:
- adult members of the household, based on the responses to the 10 adult/household referenced questions (Adult scale)
- child members of the household (if present), based on the responses to the 8 child referenced questions (Child scale)
The full wording of each question, asked of an adult household member, explicitly asks if the food conditions were "because there wasn't enough money for food."
Depending on the question, a response is affirmative if the respondent answered:
- "often" or "sometimes"
- "almost every month"
- “some months but not every month"
The number of questions answered affirmatively for each scale determines the food security status at the adult and child level.
Once the adult and child food security status is known, the food security status of the household is determined. For households without children, the adult food security status is also the household food security status.
To be considered food secure at the adult or child level, none of the questions, in the adult or child scale, respectively, can be answered affirmatively.
Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) Adult scale
Respondents are asked whether the following experiences were true for themselves or other adults in their household in the last year:
- You and other household members worried food would run out before you got money to buy more
- Food you and other household members bought didn't last and there wasn't any money to get more
- You and other household members couldn't afford to eat balanced meals
- You or other adults in your household ever cut size of meals or skipped meals
- You (personally) ever ate less than you felt you should
- You (personally) were ever hungry but did not eat
- You (personally) lost weight
- You or other adults in your household ever did not eat for whole day
Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) Child scale
In households with children, adult respondents are asked whether the following experiences were true for their household in the last year:
- You or other adults in your household relied on only a few kinds of low-cost food to feed child(ren)
- You or other adults in your household couldn't feed child(ren) a balanced meal
- Child(ren) were not eating enough
- You or other adults in your household ever cut size of any of the child(ren)'s meals
- Any of the child(ren) were ever hungry
- Any of the child(ren) ever skipped meals,
- Any of the child(ren) ever did not eat for whole day
Food security status
The table shows the number of affirmative responses required for each of the food security status categories.
|Food security status||10 item adult food security scale||8 item child food security scale||Household status|
|Food secure||No affirmative responses||No affirmative responses||Both adult status and child status are food secure|
|Marginal food insecure||No more than 1 affirmative response||No more than 1 affirmative response||Either adults or children, or both adults and children in the household are marginally food insecure and neither is moderately or severely food insecure|
|Moderate food insecure||2 to 5 affirmative responses||2 to 4 affirmative responses||Either adults or children, or both adults and children in the household are moderately food insecure and neither is severely food insecure|
|Severe food insecure||6 or more affirmative responses||5 or more affirmative responses||Either adults or children in the household are severely food insecure|
|Note: In cases where a household meets the condition of two different classifications (that is, different status on the child and adult scales), the household status is given the more severe classification).|
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