DECEMBER 13, 2013
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About the Author:
Anna Herforth is a consultant specializing in nutrition as a multisectoral issue related to agriculture and the environment. She consults for the World Bank, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and USAID’s SPRING project. She is also a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University. She has worked with universities, nonprofit organizations, agencies of the United Nations and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) on nutrition policy and programs in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. In each region, she has spent considerable time working with agricultural and indigenous communities. She holds a PhD from Cornell University in International Nutrition with a minor in International Agriculture, a MS in Food Policy from Tufts Friedman School, and a BS in Plant Science from Cornell University.
Access to Adequate Nutritious Food: New Indicators to Track Progress and Inform Action
New indicators are needed to provide information on access to and consumption of adequate nutritious food. These indicators would fill a basic information gap necessary to understand the causes of malnutrition, and to inform policy options to support food security and nutrition. Globally-used indicators for the causal factors of malnutrition expanded with the publication of the UNICEF Framework on the Causes of Malnutrition in 1990, with the addition of a number of indicators to measure the constructs of “health” and “care” in national datasets. Indicators of the “food” domain, however, have remained virtually unchanged since the 1960s, largely derived from the single indicator of national-level dietary energy supply. This simple and uni-dimensional characterization of “food” was a guidepost toward real and pressing needs 50 years ago, but it is no longer adequate or fitting to the nutritional realities of today’s food systems, or the distribution of nutritional problems throughout the world.
Currently, against the backdrop of a push to improve nutrition through agriculture that is stronger now than at any time since the 1960s, there is a need to update the measurement of food security at global scale. The 2013 State of Food Insecurity in the World (FAO, IFAD, WFP), the primary source of global and country-level food security information, for the first time lists a suite of 30 indicators meant to capture different dimensions of food security: a change from the traditionally-reported indicators of dietary energy supply and prevalence of calorie inadequacy. Indicators on access to adequate nutritious food, and dietary quality, are still missing. Suggestions are made for how new food indicators can be mainstreamed in the nutrition and agriculture datasets and parlance, to shift the generalized construction of “food” from one of caloric adequacy, to one of complete food security: safe, sufficient, and nutritious food for a healthy and active life. This is particularly relevant in the conversations leading up to the monitoring framework for the post-2015 development agenda.
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