Public Health Nutrition

Part B. Recent advances in assessment tools to measure household food security and nutrient deficiencies

Measuring household food security in poor Venezuelan households

Paulina A Lorenzanaa1 c1 and Carmen Mercadoa2

a1 Department of Biological Processes, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela

a2 School of Nutrition and Dietetics, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela


Objective: To validate abbreviated methods that estimate food security level among poor communities in Caracas, Venezuela.

Design: Two independent cross-sectional studies were undertaken to internally and externally validate simple quantitative/qualitative methods. The quantitative measure was constructed from data on household food availability, gathered using the list-recall method. It is a count of the foods that explain 85% or more of household energy availability. The qualitative measure is a score of female-perceived food insecurity level estimated with a modified ‘hunger index’, reflecting food resource constraints and hunger experiences within the home. Socio-economic and food behaviour data that may predict household food security (HFS) levels were gathered. The second study was repeated a year later to measure the impact of an increase in the minimum wage on HFS levels.

Setting: Two poor urban communities in Caracas, Venezuela.

Subjects: All households in both communities that complied with selection criteria (poor and very poor families that share food resources) and were willing to participate. The sample comprised 238 and 155 female household food managers in the two communities.

Results: In 1995, data from females in 238 urban poor households provided evidence for the overall validity of the method. Its application in 1997 to 155 households in the other community gave support to the external validity of the method. Measures were repeated in 1998 on 133 subjects of the above sample, when the minimum wage was increased by 23%. Evidence is presented showing the sensitivity of the method to changes in the determinants of HFS. Data analysed during these three periods suggest that the method can be simplified further by using the food diversity score instead of the quantitative measure since these variables correlate highly with one another (r ≥ 0:854).

Conclusions: This simple method is a valid and precise measure of food security among poor urban households in Caracas. The qualitative/quantitative measures complement each other as they capture different dimensions of HFS.

(Online publication December 15 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email