Short and Shorter Screening Tools for Food Insecurity

Get Permission

A survey of oncology registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs)1 found that most of those surveyed were not using a validated assessment tool to identify food insecurity but expressed interest in obtaining the Six-Item Short Form of the Food Security Survey Module.2 

The six-item food insecurity screening tool is an abbreviated version of the 18-item questionnaire developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to measure food insecurity and hunger and is available at the USDA website. Questions aim to determine whether a person or household has enough food, the means to purchase and cook food, and can afford balanced meals. Even more succinct is the two-question Hunger Vital Sign screening tool.3 

Persons who can answer “often true” or “sometimes true” to the following two questions are considered to be from a household at risk for food insecurity: 

“Within the past 12 months, we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.”

“Within the past 12 months, the food we bought just didn’t last, and we didn’t have money to get more.”

“The Hunger Vital Sign screening tool can be implemented into routine clinical care,” not only by RDNs, but as well as others, such as medical technicians, nurse navigators, or as part of patient intake procedures,” Anna Arthur, MPH, PhD, RDN, the study’s senior and corresponding author, said in an interview with The ASCO Post. Dr. Arthur is Assistant Professor, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City. The survey results were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“There is no fee or license required to use the Hunger Vital Sign,” according to the team that developed the screening tool. “We only ask that parties properly cite the tool.”

DISCLOSURE: Dr. Arthur reported no conflicts of interest. 


1. Burton-Obanla A, Sloane S, Koester B, et al: Oncology registered dietitian nutritionists’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to food insecurity among cancer survivors: a qualitative study. J Acad Nutr Diet. December 9, 2021 (early release online).

2. Six-item short form of the food security survey module. Available at Accessed on March 24, 2022.

3. Hager ER, Quigg AM, Black MM, et al: Development and validity of a 2-item screen to identify families at risk for food insecurity. Pediatrics 126:26-32, 2010. 


Related Articles

Assessing Food Insecurity Among Patients With Cancer

Food insecurity, particularly as it affects cancer survivors, is a serious problem, according to a survey of oncology registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.1 “Despite these concerns, most oncology RDNs interviewed are not using...