The dietary energy in the food supply is an indicator calculated at the national level that serves as an estimate of the per capita availability of energy (calories) from food. This indicator does not yield any information on the affordability, access, or consumption of energy by different population groups within a given country, meaning that sufficient national supply does not ensure sufficient energy consumption by nutritionally vulnerable groups. Nevertheless, it can be useful for determining whether a country’s food supply contains enough energy to meet aggregate population needs, and whether measures need to be taken to improve the amount of energy available to the population.
This indicator can be accessed through FAO’s FAOSTAT website. FAOSTAT contains national level food balance sheet (FBS) data, that disaggregate elements of utilization and supply, and estimate total food available for human consumption. This information is paired with food composition data to produce information on the national supply of macronutrients (per capita/day). Additional indicators of quantity of the food supply using FBS data that are included in this Guiding Framework include depth of the food deficit and national energy available from non-staples, among others.
Method of Construction
This indicator can be accessed on the FAOSTAT website by selecting “Food Balance Sheets” under the “Data” tab. Users can produce this indicator for a given country and year (or span of years) by selecting “Food supply (kcal/capita/day)” under the “Elements” section and selecting “Grand Total + (Total)” under the “Items Aggregated” section.
FAO calculates the national estimate of total food availability using data from a number of sources, including government agencies, marketing authorities, and industrial/manufacturing surveys, among others (FAO 2001). This national estimate is calculated as the sum of the elements of supply (production quantity, import quantity, and stock variation) minus the elements of utilization (export quantity, food manufacturing, feed, seed, waste, and other uses). Using food composition tables, FAOSTAT calculates the energy content of the edible portion of each type of food available for human consumption. This value is then divided by the population size and by 365 days to calculate the per capita daily energy available in the food supply. This calculated value (kcal/capita/day) is available from FAOSTAT for the total food supply, as well as for individual food items and food groups.
When data from individual dietary surveys or household surveys are unavailable, this indicator serves as a proxy for energy consumption levels at the population level (FAO 2016). Because it is available annually for nearly all countries, it is a useful indicator for cross-country comparisons of energy consumption, as well as for analysis of trends over time within a country. This indicator also serves as the basis for other indicators of food security and nutrition, such as the Average Dietary Energy Supply Adequacy (ADESA) indicator (Lele et al 2016), the Prevalence of Undernourishment, and the Depth of Food Deficit indicator.
Strengths and Weaknesses
One benefit of this indicator is that it is easily constructed using FBS data, and the data used for the indicator are regularly updated by national governments and are centrally located on the FAOSTAT website. Furthermore, this indicator is simple to interpret and lacks sampling and reporting biases associated with dietary recall data (Lele et al 2016).
A weakness of this indicator is that it does not reflect actual energy consumption but rather energy availability. In addition, since the indicator is a national-level estimate, it cannot be disaggregated by age or sex, or by any geographic scale smaller than the national level, nor can it detect disparities in energy availability (or consumption) across population groups or seasons, as is possible with individual-level dietary data. This indicator is limited to the foods that appear in the FBS and therefore does not capture all possible sources of energy (e.g., insects or wild foods). Although the FBS accounts for food losses incurred at the distribution and processing level, it does not account for plate waste or other non-food uses at the household or individual level (Lele et al 2016).
The main source of data for this indicator is the FAO Food Balance Sheet (FBS) database. The USDA also has its own estimates of food supply in its Production, Supply, and Distribution (PSD) database although this database is more difficult to navigate than FAOSTAT.
There are no links to validation studies to show for this indicator.