International measurement of food security: Enhancing alignment between evidence and assistance programs

Date01 August 2019
Published date01 August 2019
International measurement of food security: Enhancing
alignment between evidence and assistance programs
John Salvatore Scicchitano
State University of New York at Albany,
Albany, NY, USA
John Salvatore Scicchitano, State University of
New York at Albany, Albany, NY, USA.
A definition of food security used in developing countries by United Nations
Agencies, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
and other international development agencies establish four dimensions of food
security: access, availability, utilization, and stability. This definition provides a
framework for a multidimensional, rigorous measure of food security across
developing countries and enables an analysis of the magnitude and severity of food
insecurity across time and space. This framework also permits an analysis of the
drivers of food insecurity that foster appropriate, costeffective food assistance
programs. In the developed world, food security is often defined more narrowly,
resulting in a less rigorous measurement of food security. Food security experts in
developed countries can exploit the framework applied in the developing world to
improve the measurement of food insecurity, as well as evidencebased food
assistance programs that are informed by its measurement.
Developed countries tend to focus their definition of food security
on the financial ability to procure food. In Canada, a government
funded food security policy research center employs the following
definition: Household food insecurity is the inadequate or insecure
access to food due to financial constraints(PROOF Food Insecurity
Policy Research, 2017). Households are classified as marginally,
moderately, or severely food insecure according to their ability to
buy food. Similarly, food security in the United States has been
defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as assured access
to enough food for an active, healthy life(Hamilton, 1995). It is
measured at the national level through the Current Population
Survey Food Security Supplement (Committee on National Statistics,
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, 2005). The
Food Security Supplement questionnaire also asks of households
with incomes below 185% of the poverty line about their financial
resources to meet food needs (Table 1). These food security frame-
works focus on food access, with significantly less emphasis on the
other three dimensions.
The World Summit on Food Security states that food security exists
when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to
sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and
food preferences for an active and healthy life(Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations, 2008). Other multilateral and
bilateral development agencies have adopted similar definitions,
including that of USAID's global food security program, Feed the
Future (U.S. Agency for International Development, 2018). From this
definition, the four dimensions of food security are established:
availability, access, utilization, and stability.
Food availability reflects the physical presence of food through
food production and distribution. In the developing world context,
most lowincome households produce food. Households generally rely
also on food purchases to obtain sufficient quantity and quality of
food to meet dietary need. Food markets are therefore important to
food availability, because an inadequate supply in markets will impact
a household's ability to obtain necessary food. Market functioning can
be impacted by infrastructure, conflict, and trade restrictions.
Received: 8 May 2018 Accepted: 13 May 2018
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1837
J Public Affairs. 2019;19:e1837.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, 1of6

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