The Global Food Security Index: Together, We Can Feed the World

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By Katie Spoden

On July 10th, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the economic development research arm of The Economist, launched the Global Food Security Index at the DuPont Food Security Forum. Several food security experts spoke at the forum, including: Ellen Kullman, chair and CEO of DuPont; Rikin Gandhi, CEO of Digital Green; Leo Abruzzese, Director of Americas and Global Forecasting at EIU; Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Howard Buffet, founder of Howard G. Buffett Foundation; Gen. Barry McCaffrey, retired US. Army general; Ritu Sharma, President of Women Thrive Worldwide; and Dr. Patrick Westhoff, Director of the Food and Agricultural Research Institute at the University of Missouri.

The Global Food Security Index: An Assessment of Food Affordability, Availability and Quality (Photo credit: Economist Intelligence Unit)

The Global Food Security Index was commissioned by DuPont to address the need for “specific metrics to illustrate what food security looks like at the local level country by country.” Kullman began the launch by stating the amount of food grown in the world is twice the amount needed to provide the global nutritional need. She said that sustainable solutions are needed and DuPont’s goal is to find tangible means to address this global tragedy. According to Kullman, the Global Food Security Index is important to this mission because, “everyone describes food security differently and there needs to be a common language to achieve this mutual goal.”

The Global Food Security Index rates and ranks 105 different countries (only 105 were included based on available and reliable data). The index provides an interactive way to assess individual countries on where they rank based on a variety of indicators ranging from food consumption as a share of household expenditure, agricultural infrastructure, and food safety.

Abruzzese began his explanation of the Global Food Security Index by claiming, “You can’t measure what you can’t define.” The first measure in creating a common language was to devise a common definition of food security. “Food security,” according to the EIU team, “exists when people at all times have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for a healthy and active life.” The EIU sought to translate this definition into an interactive, measurable, and tangible tool to be used in food security dialogue. The result was an index based on 25 different indicators divided into three categories: affordability, availability, and quality and safety.

Similar indices have been created in the past, but the Global Food Security Index differs in that the index will be adjusted on a rolling basis to reflect food prices. Fluctuating food prices drove 44 million people into extreme poverty in the last decade. According to Abruzzese, “A lot of good work can be unraveled in food price shocks.” Global food prices are essential in addressing the complexities of the food security dialogue and therefore food price data will be incorporated into the Index four times a year, reflecting quarterly commodity price data. The hope is to update the Index on a continuous basis.

About the Index, Kullman said, “The focus is not on the tool, but how we use it.” Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of United States Agency for International Development, echoed the need for action in his assertion that, “food security is a solvable problem, but only if we develop framework to the specific areas that need it.” Dr. Shah also focused on the need to bring the public and private sector together “to tackle and solve the problem” and “mobilize communities of actors together around a common goal for both philanthropy and profit.”

Check out the interactive online data visualization, videos, country profiles, and downloadable Excel model available on the Global Food Security Index website, here.

Katie Spoden is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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