Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS)
The Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) is a brief survey instrument to assess whether households have experienced problems with accessing food during the last 30 days. It has been developed by the USAID funded FANTA project1. It is based on the following set of generic occurrence questions, grouped by domain:
I. Anxiety and uncertainty about the household food supply:
- 1. Did you worry that your household would not have enough food?
II. Insufficient quality (included variety and preferences of the type of food):
- 2. Were you or any household member not able to eat the kinds of foods you preferred because of a lack of resources?
- 3. Did you or any household member have to eat a limited variety of foods due to lack of resources?
- 4. Did you or any household member have to eat some foods that you really did not want to eat because of a lack of resources to obtain other types of food?
III. Insufficient food intake and its physical consequences:
- 5. Did you or any household member have to eat a smaller meal than you felt you needed because there was not enough food?
- 6. Did you or any household member have to eat fewer meals in a day because there was not enough food?
- 7. Was there ever no food to eat of any kind in your household because of a lack of resources to get food?
- 8. Did you or any household members go to sleep at night hungry because there was not enough food?
- 9. Did you or any household member go a whole day and night without eating anything because there was not enough food?
The respondent is asked whether the condition in the occurrence question happened at all in the past four weeks (30 days) and has the option to respond: yes or no. If the respondent answers “yes”, a frequency-of-occurrence question is asked to determine whether the condition happened rarely (once or twice), sometimes (three to ten times) or often (more than ten times) in the past four weeks.
The questionnaire should be asked entirely, however, the enumerator should follow the embedded skip rules to avoid asking frequency-of-occurrence questions when they are not applicable. Research has shown that the complete set of questions does a better job of distinguishing the household food insecurity (access) level that any question on its own.
Recording Answers and Processing HFIAS Data
- For each occurrence question there are two response options: 0 = no and 1 = yes
- In case the response is no the related “frequency-of-occurrence question can be skipped.
- In case the response is yes the respondent is asked “how often the condition happened in the previous four weeks. There are three response options representing a range of frequencies as specified in the table below.
|In the past four weeks, did you worry that your household would not have enough food?|
|Response options|| 0 = No (skip next frequency-of-occurrence question)|
1 = yes
|How often did this happen?|
|Response options|| 1 = Rarely (once of twice in the past four weeks)|
2 = Sometimes (three to ten times in the past four weeks)
3 = Often (more than ten times in the past four weeks)
Tabulation Plan for a continuous measure
The HFIAS can be used as a continuous measure of the degree of food insecurity (access) in the household. First a HFIAS score variable is calculated for each household by summing the codes (between 0 and 3) for each frequency-of-occurrence question. The maximum score for a household is 27 (the response of the household was ‘often’ to all 9 questions, coded with 3) and the minimum score is 0 (the household responded ‘no’ to all occurrence questions, and therefore the frequency-of-occurrence questions could be skipped). The higher the score, the more food insecure the household is considered.
Tabulation plan for a categorical measure
This can be used to report prevalence of household food insecurity, make geographic targeting decisions as well as change in the prevalence over time. Households are categorized into four levels of household food insecurity (access): 1) food secure, 2) mild, 3) moderately and 4) severely food insecure.
| category 1 = food secure|
Household experiences none of the conditions, or just experiences worry, but rarely.
| category 2 = mildly food insecure|
Household worries about not having enough food sometimes or often, and/or is unable to eat preferred foods, and/or eats a more monotonous diet than desired and/or some foods considered undesirable, but only rarely. But it does not cut back on quantity nor experience any of three most severe conditions.
| category 3 = moderately food insecure|
Household sacrifices quality more frequently, by eating a monotonous diet or undesirable foods sometimes or often, and/or has started to cut back on quantity by reducing the size of meals or number of meals, rarely or sometimes.
| category 4 = severely food insecure|
Household is cutting back on meal size or number of meals often, and/or experiences any of the three most severe conditions (running out of food, going to bed hungry, or going a whole day and night without eating), even as infrequently as rarely. In other words any household that experiences one of these three conditions even once in the last four weeks (30 days) is considered severely food insecure.
The table below illustrates this categorization, which is designed to ensure that a household’s set of responses will place them in a single, unique category.
|frequency-of-occurrence question|| |
|Rarely code 1||Sometimes code 2||Often code 3|
ICCO is successfully using an internet and mobile-device based tool, called Akvo FLOW, for recording as well as processing HFIAS data. Akvo FLOW is designed specially for international development teams to monitor and evaluate initiatives while working in diverse locations that are often remote or lacking reliable basic infrastructure. It can be used to collect, manage, analyse, monitor and display geographically-referenced monitoring and evaluation data. It offers fast data collection, survey flexibility and analytical tools, so decisions can be made based on good data and visual evidence.
Annex 1: HFIAS Questionnaire : A questionnaire format plus instructions for individual questions
Annex 2: HFIAS Questionnaire (in context) : Contextualizing the HFIAS Questionnaire
- USAID, Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance Project (FANTA). Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) for Measurement of Food Access: Indicator Guide, version 3, 2007