As noted in paragraph 1 of the World Food Summit Plan of Action, FAO, 1996, food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Three dimensions are key in defining, measuring and analyzing food security: availability, access and utilization of food (FAO, 2006; WFP, 2009a, 2009b). Food availability refers to the physical presence of food in the area of concern supplied through domestic production, national stocks, commercial imports and food aid. Food access refers to people’s ability to acquire and/or access an adequate amount of food through own production and stocks, purchase, in-kind payment of work, bartering, gifts and formal/informal aid. Food utilization refers to households’ use of food as well as individuals’ ability to absorb the nutrients. It includes a variety of issues, such as food storage/processing, preparation practices, infant and young child feeding practices, hygiene practices and access to safe water and sanitation. The first dimension – food availability – is measured through aggregated macro-level statistics and is not therefore meaningful from a gender perspective. The second and third dimensions – food access and food utilization – can be measured at the household level and/or at the individual level and are, therefore, the most relevant from a gender perspective, as shown in the following two subsections.
Note: A first draft of this section was prepared by FAO Statistics Division