"Are estimates of food insecurity among college students accurate? Comparison of assessment procedures

Brenna Ellison

Van Buren Seminar

Friday, October 12 from 10:30am-12:00pm

Room 250A, Agricultural Administration  

Brenna Ellison, Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural & Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, will present "Are estimates of food insecurity among college students accurate? Comparison of assessment procedures" on Friday, October 12 from 10:30am-12:00pm in Room 250A, Agricultural Administration (2120 Fyffe Road, Columbus, OH 43210). This seminar is funded by the Van Buren Program in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics. The event is open to the public. No RSVP is necessary. Seating is limited.

AbstractA growing body of literature suggests that post-secondary students are at an elevated risk of experiencing food insecurity (FI). However, these rates vary dramatically across institution and study. The FI assessment methods commonly used in these studies have not been scrutinized for psychometric properties and the varying protocols may influence the resulting FI prevalence estimate. The objective of this study was to assess the performance of standard food security assessment protocols and to evaluate their agreement as well as the relative accuracy of these protocols in identifying high-risk students. A randomized sample of 4,000 undergraduate students were invited to participate (n=462 eligible responses) in an online survey that evaluated sociodemographic characteristics and FI with the 2-item food sufficiency screener and the 10-item USDA Adult Food Security Survey Module (AFSSM; containing the abbreviated 6-item module). The psychometric analysis revealed inconsistencies in college student response patterns on the AFSSM when compared to national evaluations. Agreement between FI protocols was generally high (>90%) but was diminished when compared with a protocol that incorporated the 2-item screener. The 10-item AFSSM with the 2-item screener had the best model fit and was supported as providing the greatest relative accuracy in identifying students at risk of FI. Though the protocol using the 10-item AFSSM and 2-item screener was supported in this sample, further qualitative and quantitative evaluations are needed to indicate which assessment protocol is the most valid and reliable for use among post-secondary students across the U.S.