International Adaptations

Several countries have developed food security measures based on approaches similar to those of the United States. At times this is achieved with simple translation of the questions in the U.S. module into the local language. At other times to achieve acceptable results, the U.S. measure has required adaptation to settings that may be culturally, linguistically, and economically different from the United States; this may require additional research, including focus groups and cognitive testing of proposed questions and statistical analysis of survey data. Such adaptations have been used in low-income populations in Orissa, India; Kampala, Uganda; and Bangladesh (see Nord, Sathpathy, Raj, Webb, and Houser, 2002, for a detailed description). Still other efforts in Bangladesh and Burkina Faso have taken the approach that was used to develop the U.S. module by conducting ethnographic interviews on people’s experience of food insecurity, developing questionnaire items, and testing them (Frongillo, Chowdhury, Ekström, and Naved, 2003; Frongillo and Nanama, 2003; Webb, Coates, and Houser, 2003).

The following are brief summaries of some of the more significant international adaptations of the U.S. food security measurement methods.1 These are all nationally representative surveys. Pilot surveys and surveys of targeted populations have been conducted in many other countries.

  • Israel conducted a national-level food security assessment as part of a national health and nutrition survey in 2003. The data were analyzed and reported by the JDC-Brookdale Institute (an academic research institution) in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the National Insurance Institute, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Forum to Address Food Insecurity and Poverty in Israel.

  • Brazil—The government of Brazil conducted a nationally representative food security assessment in 2004 in connection with a national health and nutrition survey. The data have not yet been analyzed. The measurement project in Brazil has very high political visibility because the current president of Brazil ran on a platform of “zero hunger.” Results of one of the pilot surveys on which the final survey module and methods were based were published in the Journal of Nutrition (Pérez-Escamilla et al., 2004).


Email communication with Mark Nord, Economic Research Service, USDA, on April 29, 2005.

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