Friday, 3 April 2009

The meaning of hunger in U.S. surveys

"What should the government mean by hunger?"

Mark Nord and two colleagues ask this interesting question in a recent issue of the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition.

A telephone survey of 1000 people offered respondents several scenarios, describing hypothetical people with symptoms of hunger to varying degrees.
The median perception of the least severe condition appropriately described as hunger is that people “. . . sometimes could not afford to eat enough. They did not feel weak or dizzy, but they did have stomach pains. However, there was not a narrow consensus on the appropriate use of the term hunger....”
The authors suggested that many respondents describe hunger in a way that seems fairly close to the federal government's intended meaning for the term "food insecurity with hunger." Federal reports on food insecurity discontinued using the term hunger in this way a couple years ago, although one can still find interesting tabulations of a survey question about hunger deep in the appendices.

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