Although on aggregate it is true that overeating rather than undereating tends to be a problem in the Pacific, the complex topic of food and nutritional security is still of high and increasing importance in the region. However measurement of nutritional security has not been done as comprehensively in PICs as for other regions and the available data is of variable quality and timeliness.
The following table from a UNICEF position paper from 2010 indicates that undernutrition is more of a problem than one might expect in the region.
The first step in measuring food and nutritional security is to find an appropriate methodology to do so, for the region and for the available data. I found the following list of food security indices in the technical background paper to the FAO Committee on Food Security’s Round Table on Monitoring Food Security, which is happening now – 12th to 13th September 2011. I added links for ease of access:
“Proposed macro-level indexes of food security include the Global Hunger Index, introduced by IFPRI, the Nutrition Index developed by Weismann et al. (2000), the Hunger Index published in 2001 by the Bread for the World Institute, and finally the Poverty and Hunger Index proposed by Gentilini and Webb (2008). Micro-level indexes which have been discussed in the literature include, inter alia the Aggregate Household and Food Security Index developed by the FAO in 1996, Christiansen and Boisvert’s (2000) Food Security Index, the Composite Index of Anthropometric Failure proposed by Svedberg (2000) and the rural household Food Insecurity Index of Burchi and De Muro (2007).”
I wonder if any of these may be both adaptable and useful to the Pacific region. I haven’t had time to look through them in detail but I may return to them.
An article from Derek Heady (who made an earlier appearance in my post on the debate on the impact of food prices on food security) entitled “We must find a better way of monitoring the impact of food insecurity” may also be of interest. He says:
“The good news is that there is now a stronger impetus to improve our measurement of food insecurity. For example, there is growing awareness of the importance of measuring nutrition outcomes at the individual level (such as wasting, stunting and anaemia), rather than simply gauging calories and incomes at the household level.
It is also more widely recognised that we need to observe diets as directly as possible, and researchers are experimenting with improving estimates of food consumption and dietary diversity. These indicators generally seem to be stronger predictors of actual nutrition outcomes; the hope is that they can also capture the unpredictable dietary changes made by poor people in times of crisis.”