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How to carry out a Food Security Assessment

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When living conditions in a region or country change and it is anticipated that communities are becoming vulnerable or unable to achieve their nutritional needs, a food security assessment may be necessary. This can happen before, during, or after a sudden hazard or whenever the situation generally worsens slowly but steadily, such as in the event of a drought, flood, locust infestation, conflict or war breaking out, a wave of refugees arriving, or the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Today’s article is a useful tool for conducting a preliminary assessment of food security. We will go through the many stages of a food security assessment and tips and examples for carrying one out.

In addition to harming the ecosystem and future generations, malnutrition is a health condition that can result from food insecurity. It’s crucial to understand that, over time, food insecurity can result in both this serious condition and mortality. However, there are other additional factors, like disease, an unsanitary environment, contaminated drinking water, and inadequate parental care that can contribute to malnutrition as well.

Assessment is a judgement, appraisal, estimation, or evaluation. It is a method used to comprehend a scenario in order to decide whether a response is necessary to a hazard or a condition that could result in a disaster if nothing is done. The evaluation must gather data that will enable a thorough study of the situation and the hazards to people’s lives, human dignity, health, and way of life. The impacted community and local authorities must be consulted as a basic tenet of an assessment.

What is the goal of a food security assessment?

The goal of food security assessments is the same as that of general assessments, but they focus more intently on how individuals attempt to maintain a secure food environment for themselves and whether they are successful. Understanding how severe food insecurity is and why this is the case is the overall goal of a food security assessment. The goal is then to decide if a short-term or long-term intervention is necessary to get them back to a normal state of food security.

When to carry out a food security assessment

People can become more vulnerable to food insecurity in a variety of circumstances, and not every household will be equally impacted. Some people may unexpectedly lose a lot of their assets (like in a sudden or acute crisis) and discover they have few resources left to survive. Some people gradually lose their wealth over time (as in a slow onset or chronic crisis).

Communities will employ a variety of coping strategies to keep their degree of food security. Early indicators of food insecurity can include fewer meals consumed, taking out loans, selling clothing, unusual price rises for food, selling farmland or productive tools, odd population changes, and an increase in prostitution.

How to carry out a food security assessment

The process of conducting an assessment is flexible. Before you begin gathering the main data, the collection of secondary data does not need to be fully finished. The most crucial truth is that you have all the information you need before starting to analyse it and before coming to any conclusions.

Step 1: Food security assessment preparation

  1. Specify your food security assessment’s goals.
  2. Choose the assessment team and write the assessment’s terms of reference.
  3. Specify the locations you’ll be visiting for the assessment.
  4. Discover whether any other organizations are doing assessments, as well as where and why.
  5. Determine your assessment budget and make arrangements for a local language translation, if necessary.
  6. Let the government know what your plans are.
  7. Get your co-workers at the local National Society branches involved.
  8. Describe whether you need a special permit to enter a particular region and how to get one.
  9. Get ready for the assessment by setting up your field gear and securing your transportation.
  10. Create a travel itinerary and gather data to see whether the plan is practical logistically and within the allotted time.
  11. Commence preparing your methods for the following phases; list the secondary data you require and how to obtain it (Step 2). Think about the major interviewees, your interview questions, and the strategies you’ll employ (Step 3).
  12. If you travel to places where men and women do not interact in public very often, try to include a female interviewer.

Step 2: Phase two of gathering secondary information

Secondary data can be divided into two categories: data gathered in advance of a crisis and data gathered in response to a crisis but before your assessment.

The first group is the primary focus of this guide. Secondary data is gathered and analysed for the following reasons:

  • To more clearly define the context of the entire region or area affected (it could provide baseline data to compare all your primary data against).
  • To direct you on what primary data you still need to gather in order to meet your food security assessment objectives.
  • To save time and money and help you be more effective in information gathering in Step 3.
  • To better meet your food security assessment objectives.

It is important to analyse the secondary data collection’s applicability to the assessment goals. While certain information could be readily accessible and available, other information might need more work to gather. The information’s level of quality will differ. At the province, district town, and national capital levels, secondary information is frequently discovered.

Your co-workers and volunteers should be consulted as a source of secondary information. Asking for information from co-workers who participated in earlier emergencies and assessments can provide accurate and trustworthy information, as can institutional memory.

Step 3: The preliminary information gathering stage

This stage is essential for determining the degree of vulnerability and food insecurity, so you should gather the information yourself. Although not difficult, it does require a number of strategies. Each technique yields a unique set of results, and these outcomes—along with the secondary data—will help you assess the issue and make judgment calls. The emphasis in Step 2 was on secondary data. At this level, the situation itself is the main emphasis. Before, during, or after a serious crisis, the data will be gathered directly from the affected communities.
It will be necessary for you to gather a lot of data, but there are a few methods that make it simple. By observing people and conducting one-on-one or group interviews, you will gather information. Additionally, you can get data by measuring and using questionnaires. Questionnaire use is debatable: An excellent questionnaire requires extensive technical knowledge to create. If the queries are too narrowly focused, crucial information is missed. Additionally, questionnaires require considerable training to utilize effectively because their analysis and interpretation are not straightforward. One of the primary components of the evaluation, for instance, is the examination of community and household problem-solving capacities; direct, rigid inquiries will only give part of the solution.

Checklists work better than surveys because they direct your inquiries and help you avoid forgetting important details. Gauging the severity of acute malnutrition by wrapping a tape around a child’s or adult’s upper arm is an example of measuring. A measurement of this kind is known as a MUAC (mid-upper-arm circumference). It is a relatively straightforward procedure that provides immediate information on the number of persons who are severely undernourished (regardless of the cause). Following conversations with individuals, MUAC measurements may be taken: After home visits, you can measure specific people, or you can collect entire groups of kids or adults to be measured.

Step 4: Analysis

You must analyse your findings now that you have gathered the data. Prior to starting the analysis, you should: reread all of your notes, score them, compare the places and communities, and rank the problems according to their importance; hold a team meeting where you may discuss everyone’s opinions and conclusions; and compare the areas and communities. The most important factor is whether you can provide the answers to the questions outlined in your food security assessment’s objectives. Do you comprehend the people’s predicament with regard to food security?

For more information, feel free to check out our Food Security & Nutrition in Emergencies course. Enroll today to get a 10% discount! Also, subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss out on our next blog.


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