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To evaluate the reliability and validity of a six-item food security scale when self-administered by adolescents.
Cross-sectional questionnaire survey including the six-item food security measure, socio-economic variables and a food-frequency questionnaire.
Representative sample of 29 schools in Trinidad.
In total 1903 students aged approximately 16 years.
Item affirmatives ranged from 514 (27%) for the ‘balanced meal’ item to 128 (7%) for the ‘skipped or cut meals often’ item and 141 (7%) for the ‘hungry’ item. Item-score correlations ranged from 0.444 to 0.580. Cronbach's α was 0.77. Relative item severities from the Rasch model ranged from −1.622 (standard error 0.043) for the ‘balanced meal’ item to 1.103 (0.068) for the ‘skipped or cut meals often’ item and 0.944 (0.062) for the ‘hungry’ item. The ‘hungry’ item gave a slightly lower relative severity in boys than girls. Food insecurity was associated with household overcrowding (adjusted odds ratio comparing highest and lowest quartiles 2.61, 95% confidence interval 1.75 to 3.91), lack of pipe-borne water in the home, low paternal education or paternal unemployment. After adjusting for socio-economic variables, food insecurity was associated with less frequent consumption of fruit (0.75, 0.60 to 0.94) or fish (0.72, 0.58 to 0.88) but more frequent consumption of biscuits or cakes (1.47, 1.02 to 2.11).
The food security scale provides a valid, reliable measure in adolescents, although young people report being hungry but not eating relatively more frequently than adults. Food-insecure adolescents have low socio-economic position and may eat less healthy diets.
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