Home > In Action > Projects > Voices of the Hungry > Background
Voices of the Hungry

Bringing experience-based food insecurity measurement to the global level

Voices of the Hungry is committed to building country-level capacity to use the FIES to produce reliable population estimates of food insecurity that are comparable across different countries and cultures.

Reliable information collected frequently at the country level and disseminated in a timely manner can strengthen evidence-based decisions aimed at improving food security. To help countries meet this challenge, FAO’s Voices of the Hungry (VoH) project developed a new global standard for estimating the prevalence of food insecurity through use of a tool called the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES).

The FIES is an experience-based metric of food insecurity severity, meaning that it relies on people’s direct responses to questions regarding their access to adequate food. Inspired by two decades of accumulated experience with similar tools in many countries, Voices of the Hungry developed the analytical protocols necessary to take experience-based food security measurement global, making it possible to compare prevalence rates across countries and even sub-national populations.

The four pillars of food security are food availability, food access, food utilization and stability. It is the second dimension of food security – food access – that the FIES is designed to measure using self-reported data collected at the household and individual level. The FIES represents an important complement to existing measures of other aspects of food security.  

The benefits of using the FIES to measure food insecurity

●  Produces timely, reliable and meaningful information on the adequacy of access to food at the individual or household level.
●  Easily applied at low cost within any individual or household survey.
●  Is a direct measure of food insecurity experienced by people and households.
●  Produces comparable estimates of food insecurity prevalence rates across countries and cultures.
●  Enables the analysis of gender differences in food insecurity when applied at the individual level.
●  When included in large population surveys, it provides actionable information that policy makers can use to identify vulnerable population groups and guide policy interventions.
●  Deepens our understanding of the determinants and consequences of individual and household food insecurity when used together with other indicators in population surveys.
●  Contributes to highlighting food security links across sectors, such as nutrition and agriculture, when used to monitor and evaluate policies and programs.

Global food security monitoring using the FIES

In 2014, FAO began collecting FIES data by leveraging on the Gallup® World Poll (GWP), a branch of Gallup, Inc. that surveys nationally representative samples of the adult population annually in nearly 150 countries, covering 90% of the world’s population. This has enabled FAO to collect information from individual respondents at a relatively low cost and to compute country-level estimates of the prevalence of food insecurity at different levels of severity that are valid, reliable and comparable across countries. 

Promoting use of the FIES at the country level

The full potential of the FIES to generate statistics that can inform policy is realized when the tool is applied in large national population surveys that allow more detailed analyses of the food insecurity situation by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location, or other policy-relevant characteristics. This is already the case for a number of countries.

The Voices of the Hungry Project is committed to building country-level capacity to use the FIES in national surveys, providing technical assistance to national institutions and conducting regional and country-level workshops.

Learn more about the history, background, and role of the FIES in food security monitoring from several experts involved in its development