Food security statistics

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Global monitoring of FAO hunger target

In 1996 the World Food Summit (WFS) set the target of ''eradicating hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015". In 2000, the Millennium Declaration (MD) promoted the target to ''halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger''.

FAO received the mandate of monitoring progress towards the objectives set by the WFS and the MDGs. For this reason, the FAO statistics division rigorously and continuously works on the methodology and the parameters needed for estimating the prevalence of undernourishment.

Methodological framework

In 2011-12 the FAO methodology for estimating the prevalence of undernourishment went through a deep review, to identify the most appropriate model to describe the habitual dietary energy consumption in the population and improve the estimation of its parameters. In particular, it was introduced the skew-normal distribution.

Further refinements of the methodology were introduced in the SOFI 2014 edition. Available micro-data from surveys are now used to identify the most appropriate functional form for the habitual energy consumption. A new outlier detection method was introduced for micro-data, based on a "leave-out one cross-validation" approach. And a new estimation method was introduced to estimate variability in habitual energy consumption for countries where no survey data are available, based on the observed relation between the Coefficient of Variation, GDP per capita, the income Gini coefficient and food prices. Changes are described in detail here

Food Balance Sheets

Food Balance Sheets (FBS) provide essential information on the food system of a country. They look at: 
i) the domestic supply of food commodities
ii) the domestic food utilization
iii) the food supply available for human consumption.

The Dietary Energy Supply (DES) derived from the Food Balance Sheets is also used for estimating the prevalence of undernourishment at national, regional and global levels.  

Food Balance Sheets are prepared by FAO using official statistics provided by the countries. They are updated annually and are available for nearly all countries.

Processing food data from household surveys

Food consumption data from National Household Surveys are analyzed to compute a set of food security statistics at national and sub-national levels (including gender disaggregated data) and to derive coefficients on the distribution of food consumption within the population (coefficients of variation and skewness). The latter are then used to estimate the prevalence of undernourishment.

Capacity development  

Capacity development is provided on the analysis of food consumption data. The main objective is to strengthen the national capacity to produce and use food security statistics derived from National Household Surveys. Technical support is also offered for the design of proper food consumption and food security modules to be included in household surveys.

Automatized processing of food data: ADePT-FSM software

In collaboration with the World Bank, FAO has developed software – the ADePT FSM – that aims at improving the consistency and availability of food security statistics extracted from National Household Surveys (Household Budget Surveys, etc.) containing food consumption data. The derived food security statistics are crucial to assess and monitor food security at national and sub-national levels and inform food security programmes.

Food Security indicators

In line with the recommendations made at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) Round Table on hunger measurement (September 2011), the FAO Statistics Division has compiled food security indicators aimed at capturing various aspects of food insecurity. The suite of indicators was first launched in the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012, and it was analysed and further developed and analysed in the State of Food Insecurity in the World 20132014 and 2015 reports.


Carlo Cafiero
Team Leader

Salar Tayyib
Food Balance Sheets Team Leader