Identifying targets for household food security in South Africa

by JACOBS, P, 2009
Research Report. Centre for Poverty Employment and Growth, Human Sciences Research Council

Jacobs uses South African food spending and consumption information to develop a conceptual and methodological approach for a food security target for low-income households. A food security target is a well-defined and measurable goal to reduce the number of people who lack enough food of the right quality to live healthy lives. Policies and programmes designed to reach a food security target must address the multiple and complex forces behind household food insecurity. A range of easily adjustable food security targets is needed to guide policy actions. A food security target requires a clear set of baseline indicators. It must often be adjusted for specific household livelihood contexts, and consider factors such as household composition, geographic location, wealth-generating and livelihood activities, institutional dynamics and risks. The proposed methodological approach asks whether a household’s food expenditure is enough for a nutritionally adequate food basket. In 2005 the cost of the ‘average dietary energy food basket’ (2 053kcal/p/d) was R262.66 per month per person, while the cost of the ‘below-average’ basket (1 554kcal/p/d) was R189.25. High proportions of rural and urban households report food spending levels below these estimated dietary energy costs. The result that only 1 in 5 households can afford the average dietary energy costs appears consistent with recent surveys on micro-nutrient intake. Future studies need to develop the conceptual and methodological tools for more nuanced baseline information on food security