In policy and social science hunger is defined as a condition in which a person, for a sustained period, is unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs. While the vast majority of people who suffer from hunger live in developing countries, far too many people in America also suffer from hunger.
Determining how many are affected, though, is made more difficult because we do not have an exact way to identify who lacks food. A common proxy is the metric known as “very low food security.”
Since 1998 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has conducted surveys to determine levels of “food security”—access by people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. The survey includes a category for “very low food security” which identifies households in which the food intake of one or more members was reduced and eating patterns disrupted because of insufficient money and other resources for food. Households without children are classified as having very low food security if they report six or more food-insecure conditions. Households with children age 0-17 are classified as having very low food security if they report eight or more food-insecure conditions among adults and/or children.