A Measure of Hunger

By Dailey, Daisy Z. | Human Ecology Forum, Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

A Measure of Hunger


Dailey, Daisy Z., Human Ecology Forum


Researchers in the Division of Nutritional Sciences have worked since the mid-80s to define hunger and measure the extent of it. Using the term "food insecurity" to talk about hunger in this country, they have devised a system for quantifying it. The next step is to identify areas in which food problems exist so that communities can act to solve them.

In the mid-1980s, as major U.S. cities were noting increases in homelessness, empty community food pantries, and overwhelmed soup kitchens, the President's Task Force on Food Assistance was unable to substantiate allegations of hunger because they had no way to measure the extent of the problem. Christine Olson, professor of nutritional sciences, and Kathy Radimer, then a graduate student, set out to develop measures of hunger in the United States.

Since then Olson has been working to pinpoint the slippery problem of lack of food in this country. This has meant creating terms to talk about the problem, studying groups of people affected by it, and seeking solutions.

Poverty is one of the major risk factors responsible for hunger in this country, says Olson, who recently returned from a sabbatical leave spent at the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Recent Census Bureau statistics show that about 38.1 million people suffer from poverty in the United States. Yet it is often difficult to convince people that hunger exists.

Those most likely to suffer from hunger in the United States are women and children - usually single mothers and the families they support - and the elderly. And while starvation does not occur in the United States on the scale that it does in still-developing countries, hunger does exist.

"Women and children are over-represented in the poverty population. They are at highest risk for being poor, and therefore at greatest risk of hunger," says Olson.

Olson and other researchers in the Division of Nutritional Sciences have worked since the mid-80s to both define hunger and discover ways to measure it. Rather than call the problem "hunger," which might imply hunger on the scale of less-developed countries, Olson and her colleagues chose the term "food insecurity." Based on Radimer's original research, they define food insecurity as "the inability to acquire or consume an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so."

The researchers found that food insecurity takes place on a continuum, progressing from uncertainty and anxiety about food in the household, to affecting what and how the adults in the household eat, to the extreme condition of children going hungry. To quantify food insecurity, they developed a measurement tool that can be applied to various groups.

Working with populations of women and children in upstate New York, Olson and her colleagues conducted two studies, one in 1987 and one in 1993. The 1987 study, conducted with Radimer, provided an initial definition of food insecurity and delineated the conceptual framework for the nature of food problems. In that study thirty-two women who had been hungry or near hunger at some time in their lives were interviewed extensively. The researchers found that the women experienced hunger in two ways, which they termed narrow and broad. The narrow concept referred to not having enough food and going without food, often for several days. The broad concept included problems maintaining the household food supply, inadequate diets, and how the women and children felt about their situation.

Olson and Radimer also found that the way food insecurity was experienced by the women and children as individuals differed from the way it was experienced on a household level. They found both experiences had four components - quantitative, qualitative, psychological, and social:

* The quantitative component of food insecurity for individuals means insufficient intake; for households, it means food depletion, or running out of food. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Measure of Hunger
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.