How do Latina/o Parents Interpret and Respond to the US Household Food Security Survey Module? A Qualitative Cognitive Interviewing Study




McClain, Amanda C.
Johnson, Cassandra M.
DiRado-Owens, Christian
Dickin, Katherine L.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




Background: The US Latino/a population disproportionately lives in poverty and experiences household food insecurity, especially households with children. The Household Food Security Survey Module (FSSM) was originally developed among rural White women. Despite wide use in English and Spanish, how well the FSSM captures the food insecurity experiences of Latino/a households is not well known. Objective: This study explored how Latino/a caregivers understood, interpreted, and perceived FSSM items and responses, and how well quantitative FSSM responses captured their reported food insecurity experiences. Design: Trained researchers conducted in-depth cognitive interviews in a qualitative study. Participants and setting: Interviews were conducted between October 2021 and August 2022 with Latino/a adults (N = 62) experiencing food insecurity while caring for a child (aged 18 years or younger) in the same household, and living in California, New York, or Texas. Statistical analysis performed: Qualitative analysis using iterative summaries for data reduction focused on item interpretation, response patterns, and cross-cutting themes. Results: Participants generally understood FSSM items as intended. The most salient findings were themes that applied across multiple FSSM items rather than wording issues with specific items. Underreporting of food insecurity was linked to nonaffirmative (“never”) responses to items referencing not having enough money for food while describing reliance on nonmonetary resources (eg, food assistance or food pantries); emotional sensitivity to discussing food insecurity, particularly as it related to children; stigma and emotions related to skipping meals; and limited response options that participants believed did not reflect their experiences. These issues influenced multiple items, impeding ease of responding and leading to inaccurate responses in English- and Spanish-language versions. Conclusions: Assessing coping strategies and providing more acceptable response options could enhance FSSM validity. Considering emic perspectives of Latino/a caregivers and how food access experiences differ from quantitative survey measures of food security could strengthen policy and programs.



food insecurity measurement, qualitative research, Hispanic, Latino, families


McClain, A. C., Johnson, C. M., DiRado-Owens, C., & Dickin, K. L. (2023). How do Latina/o parents interpret and respond to the US household food security survey module? A qualitative cognitive interviewing study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 123(10), pp. S25-S45.


Rights Holder

Rights License

This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Rights URI