Food insecurity is a major issue in the United States, affecting millions of households across the country. A new study from the University of Southern California suggests that the problem may be even worse than previously thought, with national rates of food insecurity potentially underreported by up to one-third.
The study, led by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences’ Public Exchange, found that households are more likely to accurately report food insecurity when surveyed more often and asked about their recent experiences. This means that the current system of annual surveys conducted by the US Department of Agriculture may be missing a significant portion of households experiencing food insecurity.
Food insecurity is defined as not having access to enough food to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle for all individuals in a household. The USDA collects data from American households about food spending and access to food through its Current Population Survey. The data showed that national food insecurity rates did not change significantly between 2019, 2020, and 2021, hovering around 10.5%.
However, the study found that in Los Angeles County, food insecurity rates are much higher than the national average, standing at 24% and up almost 8% from the year before. The USC research team collected weekly data from respondents in the county and found that one-third of those who reported food insecurity earlier in the year did not report it again when asked if they had experienced food insecurity at any point that year. This suggests that the annual surveys may be missing a significant portion of those experiencing food insecurity.
The researchers recommend that the USDA and other agencies conduct surveys multiple times a year that ask people about their experiences of food insecurity for shorter time periods. This would allow for more accurate reporting and a better understanding of the extent of the problem.
The study highlights the urgent need to address food insecurity in the United States, especially in areas like Los Angeles County where the problem is particularly acute. More frequent and accurate surveys can help to better understand the problem and develop effective solutions to ensure that all households have access to enough food to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.