Measuring food insecurity

Source– The post is based on the article “Measuring food insecurity” published in The Indian Express on 3rd December 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Poverty and hunger

Relevance– Issues related to malnutrition


India ranked at 107th out of 121 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2022.

There are some question marks on data used by FAO to measure the hunger prevalence in India which is used in GHI score

What is food security?

It exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. It should meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

What are the arguments favouring the authenticity of data by FAO that is used to calculate GHI score?

India ranking results from the use of Indian government official statistics called NFHS survey. This data confirms that there persist high rates of child mortality and chronic malnutrition in India.

A falling child mortality rate is not a consolation for the fact that a larger proportion of children still suffers from chronic malnutrition.

The indicator used by FAO to measure food security was scrutinised and approved by countries through the UN Statistical and UN Economic and Social Council.

Prevalence of malnutrition is not simply based on survey data collected by FAO using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale(FIES). It is computed using data on national food balances and consumption at household level. The most recent food consumption data available for India is from 2011. FAO does not have access to updated data, including the 75th round of the same survey on consumer expenditures conducted in 2017-18.

There is a lack of understanding regarding how FAO FIES data are processed to ensure valid, reliable measures of severity of food security across countries.

In 2013, FAO started the “Voice of the Hungry” project by engaging the global community because the international community did not have a way to identify and monitor food insecure households and individuals in a comparable manner across countries.

These efforts resulted in development of statistical protocols that ensure different translation and interpretations of FIES survey questions in 180 languages.

All the methodological details regarding the way FAO measures food security are public knowledge.

For the last four years, FAO has been actively collaborating with the Ministry of Statistics to include FIES data into official national data collection initiatives and to align with national SDG indicators.

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