Voices of the Hungry

The Food Insecurity Experience Scale

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Eight Key Questions

The FIES Survey Module (FIES-SM) consists of eight questions regarding people's access to adequate food, and can be easily integrated into various types of population surveys

The FIES Survey Module

The FIES-SM questions refer to the experiences of the individual respondent or of the respondent’s household as a whole. The questions focus on self-reported food-related behaviors and experiences associated with increasing difficulties in accessing food due to resource constraints.

During the last 12 months, was there a time when, because of lack of money or other resources:

1. You were worried you would not have enough food to eat?
2. You were unable to eat healthy and nutritious food?
3. You ate only a few kinds of foods?
4. You had to skip a meal?
5. You ate less than you thought you should?
6. Your household ran out of food?
7. You were hungry but did not eat?
8. You went without eating for a whole day?

Translation and Linguistic adaptation

All FIES questions are worded to be as concise and universally relevant as possible.

However, it is important to ensure that in the language of administration, the translated terms used faithfully capture the underlying concepts and original meaning of the FIES questions. FAO has a repository of the 2017 FIES versions in nearly 200 different languages from the Gallup World Poll, which can be used as a starting point for translating and preparing the FIES survey module. In addition, lessons learned from linguistic adaptations of the FIES-SM and feedback from the field have been incorporated into an explanatory document to guide translation efforts and enumerator training.

The Scale

The set of eight questions compose a scale that covers a range of severity of food insecurity:

The FIES differs from traditional approaches that assess food insecurity indirectly, such as FAO's Prevalence of Undernourishment, measures of food security determinants (such as food availability or income) and potential outcomes (such as nutritional status). 

No single tool can account for the many dimensions of food and nutrition security. The FIES complements the existing set of food and nutrition security indicators. Used in combination with other measures, the FIES has the potential to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the causes and consequences of food insecurity and to inform more effective policies and interventions.  Because the FIES is easy for professionals and institutions from any sector to use, its inclusion in diverse types of surveys can help strengthen links between different sectorial perspectives, for example, between agriculture, social protection, health and nutrition.

The FIES is a statistical scale similar to other widely-accepted scales designed to measure unobservable traits such as aptitude/intelligence, personality, and a broad range of social psychology and health-related conditions. Responses to the questions must always be analyzed together as a scale, not as separate items. Comparability of results across countries is achieved through the use of statistical techniques borrowed from the toolkit of Item Response Theory (IRT) models, commonly used in the educational and psychological testing fields.