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Food and Nutrition

Determining Food Security Status

With the publication of Canadian Community Health Survey, Cycle 2.2, Nutrition (2004) - Income-Related Household Food Security in Canada, Health Canada introduced a new method of interpreting the data from the Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM). Key elements of Health Canada's approach are highlighted here.

Categories of Food Security Status

Health Canada uses three categories to describe the food security situation experienced by households:

  1. food secure;
  2. food insecure, moderate;
  3. food insecure, severe.

Food secure

These households had access, at all times throughout the previous year, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

Food insecure

At times during the previous year, these households were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money for food. In these households, adults or children (if present) or both adults and children experienced food insecurity. Depending on the extent of the experience, households were either moderately food insecure or severely food insecure.

Food insecure, moderate - These households had indication of compromise in quality and/or quantity of food consumed

Food insecure, severe - These households had indication of reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns

Food Security Status at the Adult, Child and Household Level

In order to determine the food security status of households, Health Canada first determines the food security status of the adult members of the household based on the responses to the ten adult/household referenced questions (Adult Scale) in the HFSSM and of the child members (if present) based on the responses to the eight child referenced questions (Child Scale) in the HFSSM.

Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) Adult and Child ScalesFootnote 1

Adult Scale

  • You and other household members worried food would run out before you got money to buy more
  • Food you and other household members bought didn't last and there wasn't any money to get more
  • You and other household members couldn't afford to eat balanced meals
  • You or other adults in your household ever cut size of meals or skipped meals
  • You or other adults in your household ever cut size of meals or skipped meals in 3 or more months
  • You (personally) ever ate less than you felt you should
  • You (personally) were ever hungry but did not eat
  • You (personally) lost weight
  • You or other adults in your household ever did not eat for whole day
  • You or other adults in your household ever did not eat for whole day in 3 or more months

Child Scale

  • You or other adults in your household relied on only a few kinds of low-cost food to feed child(ren)
  • You or other adults in your household couldn't feed child(ren) a balanced meal
  • Child(ren) were not eating enough
  • You or other adults in your household ever cut size of any of the child(ren)'s meals
  • Any of the child(ren) were ever hungry
  • Any of the child(ren) ever skipped meals
  • Any of the child(ren) ever skipped meals in 3 or more months
  • Any of the child(ren) ever did not eat for whole day

The number of food insecure conditions reported - that is, the number of questions in the HFSSM that the respondent answered affirmatively on behalf of the household in each of the Adult and Child Scales - determines the food security status at the adult and child level, respectively. Once adult and child food security status is known, the food security status of the household is determined. Among households without children, adult food security status is also household food security status.

Depending on the question, a response is considered affirmative if the respondent indicated "yes"; "often" or "sometimes"; or "almost every month" or "some months but not every month".

To be considered food secure at the adult or child level, none or only one of the questions, in the Adult or Child Scale, respectively, can be answered affirmatively.

See the table, Food Security Status, for details about the number of affirmative responses required for classification into each of the food security status categories.

Food Security Status

Food Security Status
Food Security Status Adult Status (based on the Adult Scale) Child Status (based on the Child Scale) Household Status (derived from Adult and Child Status)
Food Secure no, or one, indication of difficulty with income-related food access

0 or 1 affirmative responses
no, or one, indication of difficulty with income-related food access

0 or 1 affirmative responses
Both adult status and child status are food secure
Food Insecure, Moderate indication of compromise in quality and/or quantity of food consumed

2 to 5 affirmative responses
indication of compromise in quality and/or quantity of food consumed

2 to 4 affirmative responses
Either adults or children, or both adults and children, in the household are moderately food insecure, and neither is severely food insecure
Food Insecure, Severe indication of reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns

≥6 affirmative responses
indication of reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns

≥5 affirmative responses
Either adults or children in the household are severely food insecure

Footnotes

Footnote 1

The full wording of each question, asked of an adult household member, includes explicit reference to resource limitation (e.g. "...because there wasn't enough money for food").

Return to footnote 1 referrer