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Measurement of Food Security

Food security policy formulation requires the definition of a conceptual framework where the various components of the food system are linked together and the impact of policy measures can be assessed (Barret 2010). Effective public policy needs to be built upon a clear understanding of the conceptual relations between means and ends. Following the definition of food security adopted by the World Food Summit (FAO 1996) four main dimensions of food security can be identified that also constitute the means to measure food security:

  • • Availability. This dimension describes the supply side of the food-population equation and is determined by the quantity of domestic food production and net trade.
  • • Access. This dimension pays attention to consumption and the demand side at the household and individual levels and examines the economic and physical access to food, with emphasis on the access by vulnerable people to food.
  • • Utilisation. This dimension looks at food utilisation in an adequate diet taking into account important non-food factors for households and individuals to attain food security.
  • • Stability. This dimension examines whether vulnerable households or individuals have access to food at all times.

Taking into account the time dimension, we can define food insecurity also with respect to its duration. Chronic food insecurity is long-term or persistent and results from extended periods of poverty, lack of assets and inadequate financial resources. Transitory food insecurity is short-term and temporary, caused by sudden shocks (economic or climatic). The concept of seasonal food insecurity, being a cyclical event, falls in between the two and is usually predictable, following a sequence of known, recurrent events and is seen, also, as transitory food insecurity.

These dimensions are combined in a conceptual framework that builds on the World Summit definition and integrates them into a system approach (Ecker and Breisinger 2012). In a country perspective the framework distinguishes between the macro and micro dimensions of food security.

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