Original Research

Validity of the Food Insecurity Experience Scale and prevalence of food insecurity in The Bahamas


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Allison Karpyn
1 PhD, Senior Associate Director *

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M Gail Headley
2 PhD, Research Associate

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Zeleka Knowles
3 MIA (Master of International Affairs), Program Associate

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Erecia Hepburn
4 PhD, Assistant Professor

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Nicole Kennedy
5 BA, Research Assistant

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Henry K Wolgast
6 BA, Research Assistant

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Danielle Riser
7 PhD, Graduate Assistant

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Akisha R. Osei Sarfo
8 PhD, Assistant Professor


1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 Center for Research in Education and Social Policy, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19717, USA

3 Templeton World Charity Foundation, Nassau, New Providence N-7776, Bahamas

4 School of Chemistry and Environmental Life Sciences, University of the Bahamas, Nassau, New Providence N-7776, Bahamas

ACCEPTED: 1 September 2021

early abstract:

Introduction: Despite United Nations’ recommendations to monitor food insecurity using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), to date there are no published reports of its validity for The Bahamas, nor have prevalence rates of moderate or severe food insecurity been reported for the remote island nation. At the same time, food security is a deep concern, with increasing incidence of natural disasters and health concerns related to diet-related disease and dietary quality plaguing the nation and its food system. This paper aims to examine 1) the validity of the FIES for use in The Bahamas, 2) the prevalence of moderate and severe food insecurity, and 3) the socio-demographic factors which contribute to increased food insecurity.
Methods: The FIES was administered via randomized and weighted landline telephone survey in Nassau, Bahamas to 1,000 participants in June and July of 2017. The Rasch modelling procedure was applied to examine tool validity and prevalence of food insecurity.. Equating procedures calibrated this study’s results to the global FIES reference scale and computed internationally comparable prevalence rates of both moderate and severe food insecurity. A regression analysis assessed the relationship between household variables and food security
Results: The FIES met benchmarks for fit statistics for all eight items and the overall Rasch reliability is 0.7. As of 2017, Bahamian’s prevalence of moderate and severe food insecurity was 21%, and the prevalence of severe food insecurity was 10%. Statistically significant variables that contribute to food insecurity included education, age, gender, and presence of diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Results also indicated that Bahamians experience food insecurity differently than populations across the globe, likely due in large part to the workings of an isolated food system heavily dependent on foreign imports. Responses showed that by the time a Bahamian worries they will not have enough food to eat, they have already restricted their meals to a few kinds of foods and begun to limit their intake of vegetables and fruits.
Conclusions: This study, which is among the first to comprehensively measure food security in The Bahamas, provides a baseline for further research and evaluation of practices aimed at mitigating food insecurity in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Further, this study provides a benchmark for future research which may seek to understand the impacts of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19, disasters further isolating the remote island nation. Post-disaster food security data is needed to further understand the extent to which food security is impacted by natural disasters and identify which sectors and stakeholders are most vital in restructuring the agricultural sector and improving food availability following catastrophic events.