A systematic literature review of indicators measuring food security

Publication Name

Agriculture and Food Security


Measurement is critical for assessing and monitoring food security. Yet, it is difficult to comprehend which food security dimensions, components, and levels the numerous available indicators reflect. We thus conducted a systematic literature review to analyse the scientific evidence on these indicators to comprehend the food security dimensions and components covered, intended purpose, level of analysis, data requirements, and recent developments and concepts applied in food security measurement. Data analysis of 78 articles shows that the household-level calorie adequacy indicator is the most frequently used (22%) as a sole measure of food security. The dietary diversity-based (44%) and experience-based (40%) indicators also find frequent use. The food utilisation (13%) and stability (18%) dimensions were seldom captured when measuring food security, and only three of the retrieved publications measured food security by considering all the four food security dimensions. The majority of the studies that applied calorie adequacy and dietary diversity-based indicators employed secondary data whereas most of the studies that applied experience-based indicators employed primary data, suggesting the convenience of collecting data for experience-based indicators than dietary-based indicators. We confirm that the estimation of complementary food security indicators consistently over time can help capture the different food security dimensions and components, and experience-based indicators are more suitable for rapid food security assessments. We suggest practitioners to integrate food consumption and anthropometry data in regular household living standard surveys for more comprehensive food security analysis. The results of this study can be used by food security stakeholders such as governments, practitioners and academics for briefs, teaching, as well as policy-related interventions and evaluations.

Open Access Status

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Funding Sponsor

Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research



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