Publication date: Oct 01, 2023
Food insecurity (FI) prevalence was consistently >10% over the past 20 years, indicating chronic economic hardship. Recession periods exacerbate already high prevalence of FI, reflecting acute economic hardship. To monitor FI and respond quickly to changes in prevalence, an abbreviated food security scale measuring presence and severity of household FI in adults and children is needed. Our aim was to develop an abbreviated, sensitive, specific, and valid food security scale to identify severity levels of FI in households with children. Cross-sectional and longitudinal survey data were analyzed for years 1998 to 2022. Participants were racially diverse primary caregivers of 69,040 index children younger than 4 years accessing health care in 5 US cities. Sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, accuracy, and area under the receiver operator curve were used to test combinations of questions for the most effective abbreviated scale to assess levels of severity of adult and child FI compared with the Household Food Security Survey Module. Adjusted logistic regression models assessed convergent validity between the Abbreviated Child and Adult Food Security Scale (ACAFSS) and health measures. McNemar tests examined the ACAFSS performance in times of acute economic hardship. The ACAFSS exhibited 91. 2% sensitivity; 99. 6% specificity; 98. 3% and 97. 6% positive and negative predictive values, respectively; 97. 7% accuracy; and a 99. 6% area under the receiver operator curve, while showing high convergent validity. The ACAFSS is highly sensitive, specific, and valid for detecting severity levels of FI among racially diverse households with children. The ACAFSS is recommended as a stand-alone scale or a follow-up scale after households with children screen positive for FI risk. The ACAFSS is also recommended for planning interventions and evaluating their effects not only on the binary categories of food security and FI, but also on changes in levels of severity, especially when rapid decision making is crucial.