Shining a light on food insecurity in Aotearoa New Zealand: Modification of a food security scale for use with individuals who have extreme food security needs

Helen Robinson, Kelsey L. Deane, Allen Bartley, Mohamed Alansari, Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns


INTRODUCTION: Food insecurity in Aotearoa New Zealand is a growing concern but quantitative evidence focused on those in most need of support is scarce in the Aotearoa New Zealand context. This limits policy and practice decisions.

METHODS: We modified Parnell and Gray’s (2014) Aotearoa New Zealand based food security scale to better capture the severity of food insecurity for individuals living in poverty and used a questionnaire to collect data from a sample of individuals seeking food assistance from foodbanks in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland). We used confirmatory factor analysis to assess the psychometric validity of the modified scale. We also tested group differences in food insecurity by gender and ethnicity using analysis of variance and investigated correlations between age, household size and food insecurity.

FINDINGS: We found a six-item version of Parnell and Gray’s (2014) scale to be psychometrically robust for use with the study population. The sample participants reported concerning and chronic levels of food insecurity. We did not find any group differences.

CONCLUSIONS: At the severe end of the food insecurity continuum, gender and ethnic subgroups appear to suffer at similar levels; however, this does not suggest that different approaches are not required to best meet the needs of different demographic subgroups. Further research is needed to ascertain how similar levels of food insecurity may produce differential effects on wellbeing outcomes for different groups. We recommend more widespread and regular use of the modified scale to assess the experience and impact of food insecurity for individuals living in poverty because it provides a more fine-grained understanding of the severity of food insecurity challenges experienced by individuals seeking food assistance. Fit for purpose measures enable accurate assessments that can better inform policymaking and practice decisions to reduce inequality and promote economic justice.


Food insecurity; psychometric validation; gender differences; ethnic differences; poverty

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