+1 Recommend
0 collections
      • Record: found
      • Abstract: found
      • Article: found
      Is Open Access

      College students’ interpretations of food security questions: results from cognitive interviews

      Read this article at

          There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.



          Food insecurity (FI) – the lack of sufficient access to food to maintain a healthy lifestyle – among college (i.e. post-secondary or higher education institution) students has become a prominent issue in the U.S. However, it is not clear if high rates of FI among students are due to the modern experience in higher education institutions or due to underlying issues in common surveying methods. To understand if there were underlying content validity issues, the present study had two primary research questions: 1) How do students interpret the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Security Survey Module (FSSM) questionnaire items, and 2) How do responses of students experiencing FI compare with the theorized experiences and coping responses?


          Thirty-three undergraduate students, aged 18- to 24-years old and fluent in English were recruited from a single 4-year university. During a 60-min session, participants completed the 10-item Adult FSSM and then were cognitively interviewed about their responses using the think-aloud method. Interview transcripts were analysed by two researchers using a collaborative process and basic interpretative approach.


          Students were on average 19.5 years old (± 1.2 years), the majority were in their freshman or sophomore (i.e., first or second) year, and 67% ( n = 22) experienced FI. Results indicated that students’ interpretations of key terms – such as “money for more,” “balanced meals,” and “real hunger” – diverge from expectations. Furthermore, students categorized as food insecure reported experiences and responses to FI that varied from theoretical dimensions of the process.


          Though limited by sample size and representativeness, the present results indicate that the content validity of the FSSM may be compromised in this population and the managed process of FI may present differently among college students. Further psychometric research on modifications to the FSSM or with new FI assessment tools should be conducted with college students.

          Related collections

          Most cited references 25

          • Record: found
          • Abstract: found
          • Article: not found

          Pretesting survey instruments: an overview of cognitive methods.

           Louis Collins (2003)
          This article puts forward the case that survey questionnaires, which are a type of measuring instrument, can and should be tested to ensure they meet their purpose. Traditionally survey researchers have been pre-occupied with 'standardising' data collection instruments and procedures such as question wording and have assumed that experience in questionnaire design, coupled with pilot testing of questionnaires, will then ensure valid and reliable results. However, implicit in the notion of standardisation are the assumptions that respondents are able to understand the questions being asked, that questions are understood in the same way by all respondents, and that respondents are willing and able to answer such questions. The development of cognitive question testing methods has provided social researchers with a number of theories and tools to test these assumptions, and to develop better survey instruments and questionnaires. This paper describes some of these theories and tools, and argues that cognitive testing should be a standard part of the development process of any survey instrument.
            • Record: found
            • Abstract: found
            • Article: not found

            Measuring food insecurity.

             Adam Barrett (2010)
            Food security is a growing concern worldwide. More than 1 billion people are estimated to lack sufficient dietary energy availability, and at least twice that number suffer micronutrient deficiencies. Because indicators inform action, much current research focuses on improving food insecurity measurement. Yet estimated prevalence rates and patterns remain tenuous because measuring food security, an elusive concept, remains difficult.
              • Record: found
              • Abstract: not found
              • Article: not found

              Understanding hunger and developing indicators to assess it in women and children


                Author and article information

                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                11 October 2019
                11 October 2019
                : 19
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2157 6568, GRID grid.30064.31, Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health, Washington State University, ; 1100 Olive Way, Suite 1200, Seattle, WA 98101 USA
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 9991, GRID grid.35403.31, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, , University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ; 1301 W. Gregory Dr, Urbana, IL 61801 USA
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 9991, GRID grid.35403.31, University of Illinois Extension & Outreach, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ; 1301 W. Gregory Dr, Urbana, IL 61801 USA
                © The Author(s). 2019

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef, National Institute of Food and Agriculture;
                Award ID: ILLU-470-334
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2019

                Public health

                university students, food insecurity, cognitive interviews, qualitative research


                Comment on this article