Food insufficiency exists in the United States: results from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III)

Am J Public Health. 1998 Mar;88(3):419-26. doi: 10.2105/ajph.88.3.419.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to estimate the prevalence of food insufficiency in the United States and to examine sociodemographic characteristics related to food insufficiency.

Methods: Data were analyzed from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a cross-sectional representative sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized population living in households. Individuals were classified as "food insufficient" if a family respondent reported that the family sometimes or often did not get enough food to eat.

Results: From 1988 through 1994, the overall prevalence of food insufficiency was 4.1% and was primarily related to poverty status. In the low-income population, food insufficiency was positively associated with being Mexican American, being under the age of 60, having a family head who had not completed high school, participating in the Food Stamp Program, and not having health insurance. It was not related to family type or employment status of the family head. Over half of food-insufficient individuals lived in employed families.

Conclusions: Food insufficiency is not limited to very low-income persons, specific racial/ethnic groups, family types, or the unemployed. Understanding food insufficiency is critical to formulating nutrition programs and policies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Family Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Hunger*
  • Income
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology