The Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS)
Note: The Household Food Insecurity Scale has been phased out and superseded by the Household Hunger Scale .
The Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) has nine questions for measuring problems related to household food access including anxiety about procuring food, and quantity and quality of diets. Its classification system identifies a household's food access status by capturing the severity and frequency of experiences over the previous 30 days.
Households are then classified as having:
a) adequate food access
b) a mild food access deficit
c) a moderate food access deficit
d) a severe food access deficit
This simple to use tool is ideal for situations where a rapid assessment of the situation is necessary.
The Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) was developed in 2006 by the USAID-funded Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (FANTA) project. It aimed at providing a universally applicable tool, for use in developing countries, for measuring food and nutrition insecurity in a comparable way. See: http://www.fantaproject.org/downloads/pdfs/HFIAS_v3_Aug07.pdf
The HFIAS was designed so that all aspects relevant to the food access domain of household food insecurity were reflected in the scale. Its nine questions cover:
1) anxiety about household food supply;
2) insufficient quality of food, which includes variety, preferences and social acceptability; and
3) insufficient food supply and intake, and its physical consequences.
FAO’s Role in Developing the HFIAS
Since 2006, in collaboration with FANTA, FAO has been providing technical assistance to several countries to adapt and use the HFIAS in their food and nutrition security survey work.
Using seven national datasets, four of which were supplied by FAO through the EC/FAO Food Security Programme, a validation study of the HFIAS was carried out by researchers from FAO and FANTA.
The study aimed at identifying a set of cross-culturally equivalent questions which would allow for direct and meaningful comparison of results across different contexts. The study showed that the HFIAS did not perform well cross culturally and that the HFIAS tabulation plan described in the 2007 guidance document did not accurately categorize households by food security status.
Out of this study, a new indicator was derived – the Household Hunger Scale.
A description of the FAO/FANTA validation study and a technical note is available at: http://www.fantaproject.org/downloads/pdfs/HHS_Validation_Report_May2010.pdf
Testing the Cross-Cultural Validity of the HFIAS
HFIAS field work showed that many of the nine items in the original scale describe experiences that were either culturally specific or that varied in their severity across cultures. This difference in the placement of certain experiences along a continuum from food security to food insecurity makes it difficult to construct food security categories that can be applied universally. For example, “worry” (HFIAS item 1), is not a common concept in all cultures, and if worry is experienced, it may occur at different levels of food insecurity severity across cultures.
The HFIAS, although not shown to be cross culturally valid, may still be used for measuring household food insecurity when accompanied by careful linguistic adaptation and translation.
However, when used in a specific context, a rigorous internal validation should be carried out to identify the best set of questions for the specific location being studied. The validation results can then be used to derive a valid tabulation scheme for classifying food insecure households.
The recommended method for validating food insecurity scales involves applying psychometric models to the full set of food insecurity questions. It is also important to identify a set of questions and frequencies that demonstrate appropriate psychometric properties. One method, using Rasch models, is described in FANTA/FAO validation study report.