How Voices of the Hungry works

The Food Insecurity Experience Scale

Traditional methods measure the state of food insecurity through indicators such as the prevalence of malnutrition, food imports and exports, poverty ratio, or average calorie supply. Voices of the Hungry offers a tool to capture the personal perception of respondents about whether or not they consider themselves food secure, the so-called Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES).

FIES consists of eight questions which refer to adults in the household, for example: “Were you ever worried you would run out of food because of a lack of money or other resources?”

The FIES module is included in the annual Gallup World Poll®, the largest data collection initiative of its sort in the World. The questions are asked in face-to-face interviews to randomly-selected adult individuals in sample households. This enables the calculation of food insecurity prevalence of individuals disaggregated by gender and age.

Results of the assessment describe the severity of food insecurity along a quantitative scale and can be disseminated in just a few months. The scale ranges from worrying about how to procure food across the need to compromise the quality and diversity of the food eaten, to sacrificing quantity by cutting portions or skipping meals, up to the extreme of experiencing hunger. It helps identifying various degrees of food insecurity experiences (mild, moderate, and severe).

The FIES builds upon established tools, such as the USDA Household Food Security Survey Module and the ELCSA, both of which have been tested and validated in developed and developing countries. As it is not exclusively tied to any particular sector such as nutrition, agriculture or economics, FIES has the advantage of contributing to multi-disciplinary approaches for estimating food insecurity severity, and can be used as part of food security initiatives within and across different sectors.

The FIES has the potential to become a global standard by providing comparable information on food insecurity experience across countries and population groups.