Food Security Simulator

The Food Security Simulator is an innovative, easy-to-use MS-Excel-based tool for assessing the potential short-term impacts of food price or household income shocks on food security and people’s diets.

The Simulator is an ideal tool for first-cut forward-looking evaluations of direct, household-level outcomes of economic crises and policy responses in a timely manner.

About the tool

The tool allows users to enter positive and negative price or income changes in percentage terms and provides simulated changes for a diverse set of food-consumption- and diet-quality-related indicators. In addition to detailed tabular presentations of all simulation results by household income quintile and residential area, key indicator results are summarized in concise overview tables and visualized in graphs for easy export and use in reports. The underlying data include estimates from representative household survey data and rigorous, sophisticated food demand models to capture consumer behavior.

Link to the tool on the IFPRI website:

IFPRI Data Paper: Income and Price Elasticities of Food Demand (E-FooD) dataset: Documentation of estimation methodology

Link to the paper

This document presents the estimation methodology for the Income and Price Elasticities of Food Demand (E-FooD) Dataset, Version 1.0. The E-FooD Dataset focuses on developing countries. It will be periodically updated to add data for more countries and from new survey rounds. The dataset is publicly available and can be downloaded from:

Journal article: Measuring changes in diet deprivation: New indicators and methods

Link to the paper

Improving diet quality is an emerging development policy priority. Existing indicators emphasize the cost and affordability of healthy diets but have not attempted to measure how far households are from ideal diets or how policies may nudge them closer to them. We propose a new Reference Diet Deprivation (ReDD) index, estimated from household consumption survey data, that measures the incidence, breadth, and depth of diet deprivation across multiple food groups. While informative as a standalone measure, we demonstrate how the ReDD index can be integrated into an economic model to examine changes in diet quality under different policy or external shocks. Our Nigerian case study shows that productivity growth in the dairy, pulse & nut, fruit, and red meat value chains have more potential than staple crops to reduce diet deprivation. While these findings have implications for food and agricultural policy prioritization in Nigeria, the study more importantly demonstrates the usefulness of the ReDD index for assessing diet quality and examining the drivers of dietary change when used in conjunction with a simulation model.

Journal article: Poverty, price and preference barriers to improving diets in sub-Saharan Africa

Link to the paper

Suboptimal diets are the most important preventable risk factor for the global burden of non-communicable diseases. The EAT-Lancet reference diet was therefore developed as a benchmark for gauging divergence from healthy eating standards. However, no previous research has comprehensively explored how and why this divergence exists in poorer countries undergoing nutrition transitions. This study therefore analyzes dietary patterns and drivers of the demand for nutritious foods using nationally representative household surveys from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. We show how barriers to dietary convergence stem from combinations of poverty, high relative food prices and weak preferences for some specific healthy foods. The article concludes by discussing interventions for strengthening consumer demand for healthy diets in Africa.

Journal article: Mitigating poverty and undernutrition through social protection: A simulation analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh and Myanmar

Link to the paper

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in severe income losses, but little is known about its impacts on diets and nutritional adequacy, or the effectiveness of social protection interventions in mitigating dietary and nutritional impacts. We first assess the likely impacts of COVID-19 shocks in Bangladesh and Myanmar on poverty and food and nutrient consumption gaps. We then analyze the estimated mitigating effects of five hypothetical social protection interventions of a typical monetary value: (1) cash transfers; (2) in-kind transfers of common rice; (3) in-kind transfers of fortified rice enriched with multiple essential micronutrients; (4) vouchers for a diversified basket of rice and non-staple foods; and (5) food vouchers with fortified rice instead of common rice. The simulation results suggest modest effectiveness of the cash transfers for mitigating poverty increases and little effectiveness of all five transfers for preventing increasing food and nutrient consumption gaps among the poorest 40%. Rice fortification is, however, effective at closing key micronutrient consumption gaps and could be a suitable policy instrument for averting “hidden hunger” during economic crises.

IFPRI Policy Brief: A healthy diet is costly, but even with limited income Kenyans can eat better

Link to the brief

Four important implications for policy to promote and guide a transformation toward healthy diets for all Kenyans can be drawn from this research: First, Kenya’s diet problem — the underconsumption of nutritious foods and increasingly high consumption of calorie-rich but micronutrient-sparse foods — is primarily a poverty problem. Most Kenyans simply cannot afford a healthy diet. Accelerated poverty reduction will have important nutritional benefits. Second, there are large differences between the costs of meeting dietary guidelines for highly nutritious foods and the costs of obtaining adequate amounts of calorie-dense staple foods. These cost gaps have a strong effect on household diets because the food choices of many Kenyan households are primarily driven by a need to satisfy calorie requirements. This points to a problem of relative food prices, which interacts with the poverty problem. It is most apparent for animal-source protein foods and, to a lesser degree, for vegetables. Thus, policy interventions and technological innovations that address this relative food price problem are needed to narrow the consumption gaps for nutritious food groups, particularly animal-source foods and vegetables. Third, the food preferences of Kenyans show that the poor-quality diets consumed by many households are not solely due to insufficient purchasing power and high prices for nutritious foods. This is most obvious for plant-based protein foods — pulses and nuts — which have low prices per calorie, but which few households consume in sufficient amounts to meet the recommended healthy intake. This weak consumer preference for such foods suggests a lack of knowledge of their nutritional value and their importance for healthy diets. Nutrition education may aid in changing consumer behavior to increase the consumption of pulses and nuts, as well as other nutritious foods that are now underconsumed relative to the healthy reference diet. Kenyans can consume more healthy diets with their current incomes. While healthy diets are costly for many Kenyan households, changes can be made in the current typical diet to achieve better and more balanced nutrient intake at the same cost. Finally, policies aimed at promoting food systems transformation in Kenya should factor in the dietary needs of Kenyans. As agriculture is the dominant sector in Kenya’s food systems, a balance must be found between traditional objectives including productivity growth, export stimulation, and farmer support, on the one hand, and the new responsibility of improving the availability of nutrient-dense foods for better nutrition and health for all Kenyans, on the other.

IFPRI Book Chapter: Kenyan diets: Quality, affordability, and preferences

Link to the book chapter

Improving health is one of the five key goals in transforming food systems. Part 2 of this book presents a discussion on diets and food safety in Kenya. What food systems produce, how they deliver food to consumers, and the food choices offered to consumers have profound impacts on health through dietary quality and food safety. As Kenya faces a dual nutrition problem—with undernutrition in many rural areas and incipient overnutrition in some urban areas—understanding the role of food availability, affordability, preferences, and safety is important to designing policy that leads to healthier lives for all Kenyans. These aspects of the food system are increasingly important against the backdrop of rapid food price inflation, supply chain disruptions, and sometimes low local food production levels.

Chapter 4 presents an analysis of Kenyan diets, food affordability, and food preferences in rural, peri-urban, and urban areas. Overall, there is underconsumption of nutritious foods (for example, vegetables) and overconsumption of calorie-rich foods (for example, staples). Most Kenyan households cannot afford a healthy, diverse diet, as the cost of healthier foods is much higher than the cost of staple foods and foods with added sugars. Further, food preferences are often preventing people from consuming affordable, healthy alternatives such as pulses and nuts. The combined issues of affordability and preferences point to a need for policy that targets poverty reduction and nutrition education together.

IFPRI Policy Brief: Transforming Nigeria’s agrifood system: Wealthier, but also healthier

Link to the brief

Malnutrition, largely attributable to poor diets among both the rich and poor, presents a growing challenge in Nigeria. This brief considers the obstacles to food security and better nutrition, particularly the country’s macroeconomic instability, widespread poverty, and the need for greater investment and policy coherence to support dietary diversity. The authors describe how a policy shift to focus on consumer needs can transform the agrifood system to deliver healthier and more affordable diets for all Nigerians, as well as better and more secure rural livelihoods.

Who developed the tool


This work is part of the CGIAR Research Initiative on National Policies and Strategies (NPS). CGIAR launched NPS with national and international partners to build policy coherence, respond to policy demands and crises, and integrate policy tools at national and subnational levels in countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. CGIAR centers participating in NPS are The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (Alliance Bioversity-CIAT), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), International Potato Center (CIP), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and WorldFish. We would like to thank all funders who supported this research through their contributions to the CGIAR Trust Fund.