24 Jul How do we measure hunger?
Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. Doing so requires measuring hunger to know whether progress is being made. However, deciding how to measure hunger is not straightforward and comes with a political dimension. A recent article in Agriculture and Human Values explores the intricacies of deciding which food security and hunger measurements should be used.
Food security has been defined by multilateral agencies in a variety of ways over the last 30 years, gradually growing in scope to its current inclusion of aspects around agency and environmental sustainability.
In contrast, SDG2 measures food insecurity in terms of caloric supply and subjective individual experience surveys, largely due to the pre-existence of data and indicators for these quantities at the FAO. This is a narrow view of food insecurity, omitting factors such as dietary diversity, micronutrient deficiency, food safety, and many others.
The authors detail the process by which these indicators were chosen, and the political dimensions that shaped the ultimate decision, which by no means satisfied all concerned. Several international organisations proposed alternative and additional measures both at the time and since, but none have been formally adopted to the same extent as current indicators.
The authors conclude that selection of indicators has a real effect on both discussion of food security and hunger, but also policy and action towards addressing it. Caloric sufficiency is far from nutritional adequacy, which itself falls short of healthy diets. It is important that policy is set with a broader understanding of food security than that currently used to measure progress on SDG2. However, given the 735 million still facing insufficient caloric supply, with little promise of this being resolved by 2030, SDG2 looks unlikely to be fulfilled even using the current indices.
This SNippet was written by Dr Nick Smith, Research Officer in the SNi team.