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Efficacy of Self-Administered Survey in Measuring Food Security in Low Income Populations

Journal of the American Dietetic Association
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0002-8223(99)00553-2
  • Tuesday
  • October 19


Abstract The advent of welfare reform and the decline in persons served by income assistance programs, have increased concern about food security among low income households. As a result, there is interest in developing easy-to-use techniques for monitoring food security. To facilitate wider implementation of monitoring activities, federal and private agencies developed a short questionnaire of six and four questions that may be useful for surveillance purposes. The short questionnaires are a sub-scale of the longer 18 question validated food security instrument developed by USDA. The need for a shorter, less labor-intensive instrument for surveillance prompted us to pilot test self-administration of the six question sub-scale in a low income population. The objective was to test the comparability of data obtained by self administered and interviewer administered methods. Self administration was considered the only cost-effective and feasible option for most WIC agencies. The instrument was self administered to participants in two WIC clinic study groups of mainly African American households. The standard questionnaire was self administered to respondents for 200 house-holds (group 1) and a low literacy version was self administered to 246 households (group 2). The questionnaire was then interviewer administered by telephone to the same households in each study group. Of the 200 households administered the standard questionnaire, 97 were reached and interviewed by telephone and of the 246 administered the low literacy version, 121 were reached and interviewed by telephone (a 48.5% and 49.2% response rates, respectively). There was significant agreement in responses to the questions by both methods, in each study groups (measured by the Kappa statistics). The results showed significant agreement on the classification of household food security or insecurity using both methods. The data suggest that both methods yield reliable results, although the self-administered questionnaire seem slightly more reliable.

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