Household food security - What health professionals should know

Steyn N.P. ; Robertson H.-L. ; Mekuria M. ; Labadarios D. (1998)


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Objectives. To determine national food security (availability) from national food production and consumption data and to compare 'available' consumption data with actual consumption data obtained from dietary surveys in order to predict household food security. Design. Survey of the literature and calculations from South African food balance sheets. Methods. Data were obtained from reports and food balance sheets published by the Department of Agriculture's Directorate of Agricultural Economic Trends, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the World Bank. Food available for individual consumption was calculated (production minus animal feed minus export and import) and compared with actual consumption data derived from dietary surveys published locally. Results. Findings indicate that the growth rates of staple foods and livestock over the last 23 years are lower than the population growth rate. The average available daily energy is 9 772 kJ and the protein content is 66.8 g as calculated from food balance sheets. However, dietary surveys indicate that urban and rural blacks have considerably lower energy intakes, indicating poor household food security. Mean daily energy intakes were found to be 7 345 kJ for urban, and 7 130 kJ for rural black South Africans. Conclusion. We recommend that research focus on causes of food insecurity in order to implement effective intervention programmes. It is essential that such research be multidisciplinary and include agriculturalists, health professionals and social scientists.

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