Indicator 8. Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption (MDG Indicator)

Rationale and definition:

The percentage of the population below the minimum level of dietary energy consumption is defined as the percentage of people in a population who suffer from hunger or food deprivation (caloric). This MDG Indicator collected by FAO is expressed as a percentage, and it is based on the following three parameters:

  • The three-year moving average amount of food available for human consumption per person per day;
  • The level of inequality in access to that food; and
  • The minimum dietary energy required for an average person– expressed in kilocalories per day.


This indicator measures an important aspect of the food insecurity of a population. In assessing food insecurity, it is important to consider geographical areas that may be particularly vulnerable (such as areas with a high probability of major variations in food production or supply) and population groups whose access to food is precarious or sporadic (such as particular ethnic or social groups). In addition, intra-household access to food may show disparities by sex. Therefore, whenever household survey food consumption data are available and disaggregated by sex, efforts should be made to conduct sex-based undernourishment analyses.1

Comments and limitations:

Some experts argue that caloric intake alone is not a helpful measure of sufficient healthy food. Instead they recommend measuring dietary diversity, the percentage of calories from non-staple crops, or the share of calories from protein. An additional indicator that could be utilized is the Food Insecurity Experience Scale developed by FAO.

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

This indicator is based on a combination of national food balances (administrative data), population data (census), and household consumption (household surveys).

Potential lead agency or agencies:


  1. United Nations (2003).