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Food Access

Food access may be defined as the ability to acquire sufficient quality and quantity of food to meet the nutritional requirements of individuals within the household for a productive life (Swindale and Bilisky, 2006). A food access indicator tends to focus on the economic aspect that examines the ability of household or person to purchase food. The indicator includes a computation of the household percentage of total expenditure allocate to food and minimum cost of a nutritious diet. These measures are used to examine if household income and expenditure may be able to achieve this minimum diet. This indicator is computed at the household level because the data on consumption expenditure and household composition (members in the household) are collected at the household scale.

How to operationalize the metric

Method of data collection and data needed to compute the method:

Data to compute this metric is collected through a survey on the household composition, expenditure, and consumption of food items. The surveys used usually have a seven-day recall on the food consumption and for the nonfood consumption. The recall period for nonfood expenditures varies from one week to one year depending on the purchase and use of the item. For example, cigarettes or tobacco may have a one week (7-day) recall period; electricity bill payment at a one-month recall period; and building items such as cement, a 12-month recall period. The LSMS survey provides further details (World Bank, 2017).

Unit of analysis:

The total household consumption measure from this section is similar to that used to compute the poverty metrics of household per capita expenditure. But the total expenditure for the poverty measure includes both the food expenditure and nonfood expenditure. For this metric, we further compute the minimum cost of local nutritious diet. This is used to compare the minimum cost of diet to the per capita expenditure of food. Use the following to compute the minimum cost of the diet:

  1. Apply for access to software tool at
  2. Enter FAO local food price data – or data from household survey into the tool
  3. Enter (average) household composition into the tool
  4. Run tool; this provides the cost in $ for a minimum local nutritious diet for the (average) household per year
  5. Divide by 365 days and the (average) number of people in the household to obtain the minimum cost of a nutritious diet per day per capita

From the nutritious diet, a gaps assessment is analyzed on the difference between the amount spent on food and the cost of a nutritious diet. A simple calculation of the buffer between what the household spends on food and total consumption expenditure is also made to come up with the food access score.

Limitations regarding estimating and interpreting:

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