How to Measure Impact on Food and Nutrition Security

How to Measure Impact on Food and Nutrition Security

If you embrace food and nutrition security as part of your mission, you’re familiar with intervention strategies focusing on availability, access and utilization of food. However measuring the impact of your interventions might be quite a challenge. How can you measure the effects and process the data for internal learning processes, lobby, advocacy and reporting? In this blog I will elaborate on how to go about it.

In order to reach food and nutrition security resilient food systems are needed for which we have to connect to others and learn from experiences. There’s one important way of learning and that’s measuring the effects of your interventions at household and individual level.

Why is it important to make a distinction between household and individual level? Food security at household level depends on availability of adequate food at local level. However, even if food is available, a household still needs the resources to be able to obtain it or in other words, have access to the available food. On a more detailed level it’s also important to look at which members of the household have access to this food. It could be that the food is not equally shared among all members of the household. Therefore it’s crucial to not only measure on household level but also on an individual level.

The figure below shows how the different levels of Food and Nutrition Security are interrelated. Stability as well as ecological, social and financial sustainability are key.

There is broad experience with measuring access to food at household-level and individual level. However the majority of the methods used are technically difficult, time consuming and therefore costly. Therefore USAID developed and validated a number of tools, among which the so-called Household Food Insecurity Access Scale – HFIAS* andDietary Diversity Indicator. Experience has shown that these tools can be easily applied by project staff, while the data collected can be analyzed rapidly. I have supported my colleagues and partners in various countries in Asia and Africa to actually apply these two indicators. Their enthusiasm has raised interest among colleagues working in other disciplines like inclusive value chain development who also started to introduce these indicators for impact measurement. 

In the following two blogs I will provide more practical information on how to apply these indicators. The use of mobile devices and web based field surveys turned out to be very helpful for the application of the indicators among target households and individuals.

If you want to know more about this methodology and related tools, please have a look at the forthcoming blog of my colleague Martijn Marijnis, monitoring and evaluation specialist.

*USAID, Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance Project (FANTA).Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) for Measurement of Food Access: Indicator Guide, version 3, 2007


Author Marijke de Graaf
More articles by Marijke de Graaf

As of 1st January 2021 ICCO has joined forces with Cordaid and continues as one organization under the name Cordaid.

ICCO’s international website will remain online for the time being and can be visited here or go to Cordaid: