ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Achieving Sustainable Healthy Food Systems

The Need for Actual Food Consumption Data for Measuring Food Insecurity and Its Consequences

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report for 2020 shows revised numbers of those undernourished, and a continuity in the use of measurement standards initiated in the 2017 report. FAO also initiated a dashboard approach, to bring a deeper level of analysis on the current state of food security and its associated outcomes. What the dashboard needs but currently lacks is data on actual food consumption. This paper outlines the importance of filling this gap, globally.


The authors are grateful to Lawrence Haddad, William Masters, and J V Meenakshi for comments on the earlier draft of the paper.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently ­issued its “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” (SOFI) report for 2020 (FAO et al 2020). This year’s report has the promise of setting the agenda for the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Food Summit planned in 2021 and helping to transform the global dialogue and action on food and nutrition security at the highest level, particularly playing a role in improving the woefully sparse data on actual food consumption and its determinants. This has received little attention as outlined below when it should be at the heart of achieving sustainable food systems. SOFI is an annual publication, and SOFI 2020, while also undertaking a periodic major revision in the number of the undernourished, continues the use of two measures of food insecurity, which the FAO began publishing toge­ther for the first time in 2017: the Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU) measure is popularly known as a measure of hunger, and the recently introduced Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES). These dual indicators reflect the widening scope of the food insecurity concept and measurement, as well as growing cooperation among international agencies concerned with food, emergency assistance, nutrition, and health, particularly of women and children. The FAO published the first edition of “the State of Food Insecurity in the World” (SoFI) in 1999. A decade later, SoFI was jointly published with the World Food Programme (WFP). Between 2011 and 2015, SoFI was published with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and WFP, and in 2017, with “Nutrition” added to the ­title, SoFI became a collaborative publication between the FAO, IFAD, the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF), WFP, and the World Health Organization (WHO). These reports now ­incorporate not just the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ­indicators but also the World Health Assembly’s (WHA) goals towards 2025. SoFI 2017 report comments on a variety of food security measures:

The worrisome trend in undernourishment is, however, not yet refle­cted in nutritional outcomes ... At the same time, various forms of malnutrition are still cause for concern worldwide. Overweight among children under five is becoming more of a problem in most regions, while adult obesity continues to rise in all regions. Multiple forms of malnutrition therefore coexist, with countries experiencing simultaneously high rates of child undernutrition and adult obesity. (FAO et al 2017: 2)

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Updated On : 13th Feb, 2021
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