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How to Use the Household Level Food Insecurity Indicator

When measuring impact on household level food insecurity you can use different indicators. One example is HFIAS. This indicator contains a set of 9 interrelated questions that help you categorize the situation of households from food secure to severely food insecure.

How to Use the Household Level Food Insecurity Indicator

When measuring impact on household level food insecurity you can use different indicators. One example is HFIAS*. This indicator contains a set of 9 interrelated questions that help you categorize the situation of households from food secure to severely food insecure.

The responses to these 9 questions give insights on the situation as well as on feelings of households about their food supply. In case of potential shortage families start to worry about their food supply. In the next stage, when actual shortage occurs, families tend to change their diet by buying cheaper products, e.g. reducing meat consumption. In case the situation further deteriorates households are forced to reduce the quantity of the food.

The above mentioned phases and reactions have been extensively researched by the USAID funded FANTA project[1]. They found that the different levels of food insecurity can be associated with predictable reactions and responses by households. Based on these findings they formulated 9 questions as shown in the figure below. The questions refer to the situation during the previous month and can only be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

To get a better understanding of the situation of a household, these nine questions are followed by a check to enquire how often the situation occurs, during the previous month: rarely (code 1), sometimes (code 2), often (code 3). The codes are used to analyze data and categorize households into four categories, see figure below.

Before starting a project you can add the 9 questions to a situation analysis, helping you to select your target communities and to define your intervention strategy.

Once you start a project the 9 questions can be included as part of your baseline to register the current household food insecurity situation of targeted households. Subsequently the 9 questions have to be applied as part of a midterm or final evaluation to detect changes (measure impact) at household level.

As part of ICCO’s monitoring system for Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) I have promoted and facilitated the use of HFIAS among partner organizations in different countries. It has proven to effectively determine the food security situation of households across different cultural contexts.

The recent external evaluation of ICCO’s FNS program revealed that the majority of partner organizations have integrated HFIAS in their own monitoring system. This confirms our assumption that HFIAS can be easily applied and provides valuable information for practitioners.

Notwithstanding its merits HFIAS does not provide information on differences between the food security situations of individual household members. Therefore we suggest adding the so-called Dietary Diversity Scale at individual level. This provides the possibility to zoom into the situation of specific target groups such as women and children as mentioned in my previous blog.

For recording, processing and analyzing HFIAS data ICCO and its partners are successfully using AKVO FLOW, an internet and mobile-device based tool. For more details please refer to the blog of my colleague Martijn Marijnis. In addition the Carto DB software package is used to visualize the data.

For more details on the use of the HFIAS please refer to the relevant pages of the Food and Nutrition Security Portal by using the following link.


[1] http://www.fantaproject.org/monitoring-and-evaluation/household-food-insecurity-access-scale-hfias

Author Marijke de Graaf
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