World Food ProgrammeInternational Fund for Agricultural DevelopmentEuropean UnionFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations



Food-based tools in food and nutrition security assessments

9 Apr 2013 11 Apr 2013
, Accra


Valid and timely nutrition assessment is the foundation on which effective interventions and programmes can be built to improve the food and nutrition situation of people. Standardized indicators are crucial for making cross-country comparisons, for estimating trends, and for evaluating programmes and policies for improving food and nutrition security and nutritional status.

The University of Ghana and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) held a three day workshop on food-based tools in food and nutrition security assessments.  The main purpose of the workshop was to build capacity to validly and accurately assess the impact of actions for improving food and nutrition security through the use of simple and valid food-based tools. 

The workshop was focused on providing training and practical experience with using two food and nutrition security tools, the Dietary Diversity (DD) tool and the Food Insecurity Experiences Scale (FIES).  Dietary diversity is defined as the number of food groups consumed over a given reference period. The DD tool uses a qualitative open recall method to gather information on all the foods and drinks consumed over the previous 24 hours, which are then classified into standard food groups. It can be administered either at the household or individual level. The dietary diversity tool is particularly useful for ensuring that agricultural development, food security and nutrition education programmes effectively lead to more nutritious diets.

The FIES is an 8 item scale that captures individual’s experiences with food insecurity, i.e. not having the (economic or other) means to get food, which leads to anxiety over feeding the household, reduction in the quality of diet (diversity, nutritious foods) and the quantity (skipping meals, going all day with eating 0–1 meals).  This indicator has been proposed as one of three monitoring indicators for the FAO Strategic Objective 1 on food security (along with stunting and the prevalence of undernourishment), and as such will be used for monitoring progress across time and across countries.

These tools, being easy to implement and analyze, are very relevant in countries for the national as well as the decentralized level (e.g. they can be used by extension workers). The workshop combined lectures, group and individual exercises and field work (See Annex 1 for the workshop Agenda). The first and last day of the workshop took place in the conference room of the MJ Grand hotel where lectures and group exercises covered the basic concepts of impact assessment and monitoring, types of food-based indicators used in food and nutrition security assessments and in monitoring and evaluation frameworks, use of the tools in surveys and assessments and how to analyze, interpret and report on the data.  During the second workshop day the participants conducted a field test and learned how to adapt and administer the dietary diversity and FIES questionnaires.

The workshop was attended by participants from Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi and Niger. Participants were from Ministries of Agriculture, Health, National Statistics Office, Research Institutes and FAO country offices.


MJ Grand Hotel, East Legon, Accra, Ghana

Target Audience

Project planners and managers, evaluation specialists, researchers and other nutrition experts working in the area of food and nutrition security. The training is suitable for persons working in the field of food and nutrition security from governments,




The main objective of the workshop is to build capacity to validly and accurately assess the impact of actions for improving food and nutrition security


Prof. Anna Lartey,  Associate Professor and Head of Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Ghana: or or +233 28 960 1752

Warren Lee, Senior Nutrition Officer, Nutrition Assessment And Nutrient Requirements Group (Esnna), Nutrition Division (ESN):

Mohamed AgBendech, Senior Nutrition Officer, FAO Regional Office for Africa:

Terri Ballard, Statistics Division (ESS):

Gina Kennedy, Nutrition Division (ESN):


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The “Improved Global Governance for Hunger Reduction” programme is funded by the European Union with additional resources provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The programme is managed by FAO and collaborates with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP)”