Food Insecurity Definitions

In 2006, the USDA introduced new language to describe food security and insecurity.

Food Security

food bank photo

High food security: No reported indications of problems with food access and sufficiency.

Marginal food security: One or two reported indications of limited access to food or worry regarding the household food supply, but little or no change in variety, amount, or quality of dietary intake.

Food Insecurity

Low food security (formerly known as food insecurity without hunger): Three or more reported indications of food-access problems that resulted in diet quality reduction, but did not substantially affect the quantity of food or their normal eating patterns.

Very low food security (formerly known as food insecurity with hunger): Multiple reported indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.


Hunger is a physiological condition that an individual may experience as a result from food insecurity or an involuntary lack of food. The definition of hunger is a discomforting sensation that may result in weakness, illness, and/or pain. The current USDA food insecurity measure provides a context for the situations that may lead to or affect the experience of hunger.

Sources and More Information

Food Security in the United States: Definitions of Hunger and Food Security
Measurement of Food Security, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

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