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Three essays on food security and dietary diversity




Alnafissa, Mohamad, author
Kroll, Stephan, advisor
Pritchett, James, committee member
Costanigro, Marco, committee member
Kling, Robert, committee member

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The concern for food security is a cornerstone in the development process for every country. This dissertation is examining food security from three perspectives. First, chapter one explores the most important economic and developmental factors leading to food security and combines these factors in an index to measure the change in food security levels over time for different countries. The next chapter then uses this index to determine whether food security is related to dietary diversity. Finally, the third chapter is a descriptive study of food security in Saudi Arabia. The first part of this research employs principal component analysis (PCA) in order to build a food security index. The objective of the analysis is to provide the variables that build a food security index and the method to weigh them, which allows a national-level comparison of countries from different parts of the world. These data will be used in subsequent parts of this research to study the association between the overall food security index and the four pillars of food security with dietary diversity at the national level in different countries. To build the index, PCA was used to evaluate the contribution of all 31 indicators of the four dimensions of food security (food availability, food accessibility, food utilization, and stability) represented in the FAO data set between 1990 and 2011. Standardized measures of different variables were used to make it easy and reasonable to form one index. The results indicate significant effects for 18 of the 31 variables as indicators of food security. Finally, all of these indicators were combined into a single measure to reflect a multidimensional index of food security for the 59 countries represented in the study. The second chapter of this research addresses one important aspect of food security: dietary diversity. The study assumed that a heterogeneous level of dietary diversity across several countries would be related to their levels of food security. There are several indices that can be used to measure the diversity of food on a countrywide level. This chapter uses the Simpson Index to measure the energy intake diversity of six food groups (rice, wheat products, starchy roots, sugars and sweeteners, fruits and vegetables, and animal products) and the multidimensional food security index, constructed in the first chapter, to represent levels of food security. This case study uses the average data between 2000 and 2011 for 59 countries. In conclusion, these correlations and linear regression models have found that dietary diversity is not affected by levels of multidimensional food security, while the sizes of energy intake increase with levels of food security. It is important to realize that this result does not mean that the diversity of food consumption is less important; it means the tools that could contribute to improve food security do not necessarily contribute to change dietary diversity levels but only change the size of food consumption. The third chapter is a descriptive and qualitative study of food security in Saudi Arabia. The country could reach a good standing of food security compared with other countries according to several food security measurements. This refers to several policies of the Saudi government to invest large revenues from the oil industry to achieve development in the country, with food security representing one aspect of development. In the early stages of development planning, the government targeted to guarantee food supplies and achieve self-sufficiency from agricultural products by supporting domestic agricultural production. This led to the development of domestic production and extensive use of technology in domestic agricultural production, which contributed to more production efficiency. Also, the government supported final food prices to make food easier to access for all residents of different income levels. Unfortunately, some government policies were inefficient and contributed threats to food security such as subsidizing domestic wheat production, which consumed a lot of water. Recently, the government has adopted policies to maintain sustainability in food security such as supporting domestic production for crops that consume less water, supporting overseas investment in agricultural production, increasing the capacity of wheat storage, and reducing the wastage of resources. Even so, food security in Saudi Arabia still faces several challenges that threaten sustainability, such as political instability in the Middle East, water scarcity, reliance on food imports, fluctuations and increases in food prices, food consumption habits, and population growth.


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dietary diversity
food security
agricultural economics
Saudi Arabia
economic development


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