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Current Population Survey-Food Security Supplement


Since 1995, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has collected information annually on food access and adequacy, food spending, and sources of food assistance for the U.S. population. The information is collected in an annual food security survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau as a supplement to the nationally representative Current Population Survey.1 A major impetus for this data collection is to provide information about the prevalence and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households.

U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service
Data Years Available: 
Mode of Collection: 
Household-based survey; one adult in the household responds for all household members.
Selected Content: 
The CPS-FSS is a key source of national and state data from US households regarding food security, food expenditures, and use of food and nutrition assistance programs.
Population Covered: 
The U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population.

The basic CPS sample is selected from multiple frames using multiple stages of selection. The sample design is state-based, with the sample in each state being independent of the others. One person generally responds for all household members. Employment information is collected on the job held in the reference week, defined as the 7-day period, Sunday through Saturday, that includes the 12th of the month. Labor force data are published only for persons aged 16 and older; no upper age limit is used. Full-time students are treated the same as nonstudents. The March CPS supplement is expanded to include Armed Forces members living in a household that includes at least one civilian and additional Hispanic households that are not included in the monthly labor force estimates. The additional Hispanic sample is drawn from the previous November's basic CPS sample. All CPS data files are weighted; information on weighting procedures is available in the Technical Documentation section of the CPS website.Data for the ERS food security reports come from an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau as a supplement to the monthly Current Population Survey. USDA sponsors the annual survey, and USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) compiles and analyzes the responses. The food security survey asked one adult respondent in each household a series of questions about experiences and behaviors of household members that indicate food insecurity, such as being unable to afford balanced meals, cutting the size of meals because of too little money for food, or being hungry because of too little money for food. The food security status of the household was assigned based on the number of food-insecure conditions reported. Households with very low food security among children were identified by responses to a subset of questions about the conditions and experiences of children. Survey respondents also reported the amounts their households had spent on food and whether they had used public or private food and nutrition assistance programs. All households with incomes below 185 percent of the Federal poverty threshold were asked questions about the use of Federal and community-based food and nutrition assistance programs. In order to minimize the burden on respondents, households with incomes above that range were not asked the questions unless they indicated some level of difficulty in meeting their food needs on the first of the preliminary screener questions.

Response Rates and Sample Size: 

The 2008 food security survey covered about 44,000 households comprising a representative sample of the U.S. civilian population of 118 million households. About 16% of households that completed the basic monthly CPS did not complete the Food Security Supplement. The food security supplement weights adjust for nonresponse to the Supplement by households that completed only the labor-force part of the CPS.

Interpretation Issues: 

Coleman-Jensen, A., M. Nord, and A. Singh. (2013). Household Food Security in the United States in 2012, ERR-155. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Available at: