The Ranges of Food Security and Food Insecurity

Learn about the USDA's recommended labels for assessing a household's food security.

  • Very Low Food Security

    Household reports multiple instances or signs of disrupted eating patterns, reduced food intake, and hunger.

  • Low Food Security

    Household reports lowered quality, variety, or desirability of diet with little to no signs of reduced food intake.

  • Marginal Food Security

    Household reports only one or two instances of anxiety over food shortage or sufficiency, with diet and food intake remaining stable.

  • High Food Security

    Household does not report any problems or limitations accessing food.

The Expanding Vocabulary of Access & Nutrition

We are continuously learning, improving not only our work but also the language we use to study and speak about food in our communities. Read on to learn more about some of the terms we are using in the field today.

Not just any food access - healthy food access.

Nutrition Security

is consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable foods that promote optimal health and well-being.


Social Determinants of Health

are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.

5 Primary SDOH Categories:

  1. Economic Stability
  2. Education Access and Quality
  3. Health Care Access and Quality
  4. Neighborhood and Built Environment
  5. Social and Community Context


Barriers to Food Access

are factors that interrupt a households' ability to maintain nutritional security, including travel time to food retailers, availability of healthy foods and foods that meet dietary needs, and food prices. Some people and places, especially those with low income, may face greater barriers in accessing healthy and affordable food retailers, which may negatively affect diet and food security. 

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