2017-2018 POF: proportion of food secure households stands below 2004 level

September 17, 2020 10h00 AM | Last Updated: September 23, 2020 05h00 PM

In 2017-2018, of the 68.9 million households in Brazil, 36.7% (equivalent to 25.3 million) had some degree of Food Insecurity (FI): mild FI (24.0%, or 16.4 million), moderate FI (8.1%, or 5.6 million) or severe FI (4.6%, or 3.1 million). In the resident population, estimated at 207.1 million inhabitants, 122.2 million were residents in households with FS, while 84.9 million were in those with some degree of FI, distributed as follows: 56.0 million in households with mild FI, 18, 6 million in households with moderate FI and 10.3 million in households with severe FI.

As three supplements from the former PNAD portrayed, the national prevalence of Food Security (FS) was 65.1% of the country's households in 2004, increased to 69.8% in 2009 and to 77.4% in 2013. But the 2017-2018 POF, which investigates this phenomenon using the same methodology, shows that this prevalence dropped to 63.3% of households, below the result seen in 2004. Mild FI increased 33.3% compared to 2004 and 62.2% in relation to 2013. In turn, moderate FI increased 76.1% in relation to 2013 and severe FI, 43.7%..

The prevalence of FS in the North (43.0%) and Northeast (49.7%) indicates that less than half of the households in those regions had full and regular access to food. The percentages were better in the Central-West (64.8%), Southeast (68.8%) and South (79.3%).

The general sewage network is present in less than half of the households with moderate FI (47.8%) and severe FI (43.4%). In both cases, the existence of a septic tank not connected to the general network is quite relevant (43%).

The use of firewood or charcoal in food preparation was more often in households with moderate FI (30%) and severe FI (33.4%). The use of electricity was more frequent (60.9%) in households in FS and less (33.5%) in households with severe FI.

In food secure households, men predominate as a head (61.4%). This prevalence is inverted as the degree of food insecurity increases, reaching 51.9% of women as head in households with severe FI.

Among the total consumption expenses, the Housing share was the highest percentage participation, regardless of FS or FI status of the household. In FS households, the Transportation group had the second highest percentage share, while Food assumed this position for FS households.

The share of income from work represented 57.5% of total income and average monthly wealth change of families for FS households, against 45.2% for those classified as having severe FI.  Cash transfers, on the other hand, accounted for 25.7% of the income of families with severe FI, and non-monetary income, 25.2%, thus adding up to 50.9% of the total income and average monthly equity change of these families.

The information above mentioned is part of the results of the 2017-108 Consumer Expenditure Survey - POF. This is the first time that POF brings the prevalence of food security, according to the Brazilian Food Insecurity Scale - EBIA. Previous investigations on the theme were carried out in the 2004, 2009 and 2013 editions of the National Household Sample Survey - PNAD, using the same methodology, which allows for the comparison of indicators.

Severe food insecurity reached 3.1 million households, where 10.3 million persons lived.

The status of Food Security (FS) reflects whether householders have full access to enough and adequate food, so that they manifest no anxiety or worry that some items may be restricted in the near future. Mild Food Insecurity (mild FI), on the other hand, takes place when there is anxiety towards having food in the future, with quality already compromised or with adults taking measures to guarantee the minimum intake per householder. In the households with ModerateFood Insecurity (Moderate FI), householders, especially adults, started going though quantity restriction in the reference period.  When Food Insecurity is Severe (Severe FI), it means that there has been a disruption in the food standards to to the lack of food for all householders, including children (whenever there are any).

In 2017-2018, POF estimated the existence of 68.9 million permanent private households in Brazil. Among them, 63.3% (43.6 million) were labeled as Food Secure, while the other 36.7% (25.3 million) presented some degree of Food Insecurity: mild (24.0%, or 16.4 million), moderate (8.1% or 5.6 million) or severe (4.6% or 3.1 million). This picture was proportionally more significant in the rural area, where the food insecure households accounted for 7.1% (676 thousand households), above what is seen in the urban area (4.1%, or 2.5 million households).

Table 3 - Distribution of private households and householders in private households. by status of the household. by food security degree in the household - Brazil - 2004/2018
Food security status of the househod Distribution of private households (%) Distribution of residents in private households (%)
Total Area Total Area
Urban Rural Urban Rural
2004 PNAD
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Food Secure Households 65.1 66.7 56.2 60.1 62.3 49.8
Food Insecure Households 34.9 33.3 43.7 39.8 37.7 50.2
Mild 18.0 17.6 20.2 20.3 19.9 22.5
Moderate 9.9 9.2 13.9 11.3 10.4 16.0
Severe 6.9 6.5 9.6 8.2 7.4 11.8
2009 PNAD
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Food Secure Households 69.8 70.7 64.8 65.9 67.1 59.7
Food Insecure Households 30.2 29.3 35.2 34.1 32.9 40.3
Mild 18.7 18.5 19.5 20.9 20.8 21.7
Moderate 6.5 6.1 8.5 7.4 6.9 10.0
Severe 5.0 4.6 7.1 5.8 5.3 8.6
2013 PNAD
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Food Secure Households 77.4 79.5 64.7 74.2 76.7 59.9
Food Insecure Households 22.6 20.5 35.3 25.8 23.3 40.1
Mild 14.8 13.7 21.4 17.1 15.8 24.3
Moderate 4.6 3.9 8.4 5.1 4.3 9.5
Severe 3.2 2.8 5.5 3.6 3.1 6.3
2017-2018 POF
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Food Secure Households 63.3 64.9 53.6 59.0 60.9 47.9
Food Insecure Households 36.7 35.1 46.4 41.0 39.1 52.1
Mild 24.0 23.5 27.2 27.0 26.5 30.2
Moderate 8.1 7.5 12.2 9.0 8.2 13.5
Severe 4.6 4.1 7.1 5.0 4.4 8.4
Source: IBGE. Diretoria de Pesquisas. Coordenação de Trabalho e Rendimento. Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios 2004/2013 e Pesquisa de Orçamentos Familiares 2017-2018,

In the resident population, estimated at 207.1 million persons, 122.2 million lived in food secure households, whereas 84.9 million lived in those with some degree of food insecurity, as follows: 56.0 million households with mild FI, 18.6 million households with moderate FI and 10.3 million households with severe FI, of which 7.7 million persons live in households located in urban area and 2.6 million in the rural one.

By looking at the previous studies on the topic, the national prevalence of FS, recorded at 65.1% in 2004, had grown in the previous editions of the survey: in 2009, 69.8% and in 2013, 77.4%. However, it decreased in the 2017-2018 edition (63.3%), reaching the lowest point of the time series. Mild FI increased by 33.3% over 2004 and 62.2% over 2013. Moderate FI, in turn, increased by 76.1% over 2013 and severe FI, 43.7%. The differences are deeper for rural households.

Less than half of North's and Northeast's households are food secure

In the North (43.0%) and Northeast Regions (49.7%), less than half of the households reported having full and regular access to food. The results of the other regions were better: Central-West (64.8%), Southeast (68.8%) and South (79.3%). However, mild FI was seen in nearly 1/3 of the households of the North and Northeast Regions, 31.8% and 29.8%, respectively.

North (10.2%), Northeast (7.1%) and Central-West (4.7%) had the greatest percentages of households where there was hunger at least in some moments of the reference period of 3 months. The prevalence of Severe FI of the North was nearly five times bigger than that of the South (2.2%). Regional inequalities of access to food seen in the PNADs of 2004, 2009 and 2013 were still present in 2017-2018 POF. it is worth highlighting that, in 2004, food security encompassed 53.4% of the North households, reaching 63.9% in 2013 and falling to 43.0% in 2017-2018.

Food insecure households have less access to water and sewage

Food secure households present above-average results for water supply (87.4% with general network), sanitary sewage (69.3% general network, pluvial network or septic tank linked to general network) and waste disposal (86.3% collected).

In turn, households with mild FI (76.8%) or severe FI (76.3%) present a very smaller percentage with general network of water distribution than that for Brazil (84.9%).

The existence of general sewers is present in less than half of the household with moderate FI (47.8%) and severe FI (43.4%). In both cases, the existence of septic tank not linked to general network is quite relevant (43%).

The use of bottled gas or piped gas for cooking did not show significant changes in the prevalence of food security/insecurity. But the use of firewood or charcoal was more seen in the households with moderate FI (30%) and severe FI (33.4%). The use of electricity in cooking falls as the degree of insecurity grows, reaching 60.9% in the households with FS and 33.5% in the households with severe FI.

Women and browns prevail as head of households with severe FI

In the households labeled as food secure, men prevail as head (61.4%). This prevalence falls as the degree of food insecurity increases, reaching 51.9% of women as head of households with severe FI.

In the analysis by color or race, households with self-declared brown heads represented 36.9% of food secure households, but stood above 50% for all degrees of food insecurity (50.7% for mild, 56.6% for moderate and 58.1% for severe).

Concerning number of householders, 72.5% of food secure households represented up to three residents, a percentage that falls as FI grows, up to reaching 61.2% in the households with severe FI. Notably, households with a bigger number of residents were the ones most prone to FI.

There was also more likelihood of food restriction in the households with children and or teenagers: in those with severe FI, there were 5.1% of the population under five and 7.3% of the population aged 5 to 17, against 2.7 of those aged 65 and above. As age increases, the proportion of those in food secure households increased too.

There is also a difference between the households with at least an under-five resident and those with at least one householder aged 60 and above. The presence of under-five children was associated to the lowest prevalence of FS and the greatest of FI, regardless the degree of the indicators, whereas the presence of elderly above 60 was associated to the highest prevalence of FS.

Table 6 - Distribution of permanent private households. by status of food insecurity in the household. according to some characteristics - Brazil - 2017-2018
Some characteristics Distribution of permanent private housholds (%)
Total Food Security Status of Household
Food Secure Food INsecure
Total Mild Moderate Severe
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Water Supply
General Distribution Network 84.9 87.4 80.6 82.6 76.8 76.3
Other 15.1 12.6 19.4 17.4 23.2 23.7
Sanitary sewers
General network. rain or septical tank linked to the network 63.2 69.3 52.8 56.3 47.8 43.4
Septical tank not linked to general network 32.4 28.1 39.7 37.8 43.4 43.7
Other 3.5 2.3 5.7 4.8 6.4 9.5
Absent 0.9 0.3 1.8 1.1 2.4 3.4
Waste disposal
Daily collected by cleaning service 83.6 86.3 78.9 81.3 75.4 72.3
Other 16.4 13.7 21.1 18.7 24.6 27.7
Fuel for cooking
Bottled or piped gas
Yes 97.6 98.0 96.9 97.9 96.0 93.0
No 2.4 2.0 3.1 2.1 4.0 7.0
Firewood or charcoal
Yes 19.8 16.9 24.8 21.3 30.0 33.4
No 80.2 83.1 75.2 78.7 70.0 66.6
Yes 55.1 60.9 45.1 49.6 38.4 33.5
No 44.9 39.1 54.9 50.4 61.6 66.5
Sex of head of household
Men 58.2 61.4 52.6 54.4 50.1 48.1
Women 41.8 38.6 47.4 45.6 49.9 51.9
Color or race of head of household
White 44.1 51.5 31.3 34.2 26.5 24.7
Black 11.8 10.0 14.7 14.2 15.7 15.8
Brown 42.8 36.9 52.9 50.7 56.6 \xz
Yellow and Indigenous 1.4 1.6 1.1 1.0 1.2 1.4
Number of householders
Up to 3 67.4 72.5 58.5 57.3 60.5 61.2
4 or 6 30.3 26.3 37.3 39.1 34.5 32.4
7 and above 2.3 1.1 4.3 3.6 5.0 6.4
Source: IBGE. Diretoria de Pesquisas. Coordenação de Trabalho e Rendimento. Pesquisa de Orçamentos Familiares 2017-2018,

Percentage of food expenses grows according to food insecurity

Concerning household average monthly expenses, the greatest expenditure is Housing and the lowest, Education for all categories of classification of access to food by householders. The second biggest monthly expense in food secure households was Transportation (R$859.17). In households with moderate or severe FI, the second biggest monthly average expense was with Food (R$475.72 and R$420,96, respectively).

 Urban households had average monthly expenses similar to the national average. The difference was seen in the value of expenses in reais, which were bigger regardless the FS or FI classification of the household. IN the rural area, the worst the FI degree, the lowest the expenses with anything else.

 For expenses with Food, rural households with severe FI spent on average, 28.7% less that those in the urban area; such a difference was significantly lower (1.7%) when households with severe FI are compare o the other two groups. The category Education presented the greatest difference in the monthly average expense in relation to the urban/rural scenarios in the country: 240.5% in food secure households, 124.9% in those with severe FI.

In food secure households , the monthly percentage of expenses with Food was of 16.3% in relation to total expenses of consumption. On the other hand, in those with mild FI, this percentage was of 20.5%, in the moderate FI, of 22.5% and in those with severe FI was 23.4%. Expenses with Housing presented a slight increase as FI grows, while expenses with Education decreased.

In addition the majority of the expenses among the food items decreases as the degrees of FI grow. The most significant differences were found in the group Fruits, Meat, offal and fishery and Milk and dairy products. For Cereals, legumes and oilseeds, rice, beans  and Poultry and eggs, the monetary and non-monetary average expenses for household consumption were the greatest in the households with severe FI.  Another inequality indicator is the average value spent with Food away from home, which represented, for the households with FS, more than twice over the ones with severe FI (R$250.64 against R$123.69).

Acquisition of grains, flour, pasta and fishery grows as food insecurity increases

The greater the severity of FI, the lower the per capita annual  household acquisition of Vegetables, Fruits, Baked products, Meats, Poultry, Eggs, Dairy, Sugars, sweets and confectionery products, Salts and condiments, Oils and fats, Drinks and infusions and Prepared foods and industrial mixes. As opposed to that, the increase of FI reflected directly upon just the acquisition of three specific food groups: Cereals and legumes, Flours, starches and pasta, and Fishery. Of note is that the highest percentages of severe FI were seen in the North region, where the consumption of fishery is usually bigger than in the other macro-regions of the country, probably because of geographic and cultural issues.

Transfers and non-monetary income represented half of the earnings of households with severe FI

Concerning the total income and average monthly equity variation of the households, the share of Income from work was 57.5% for the households with FS and of 45.2% for those classifies as households with severe FI. Transfers were an important source of income for the families living in severe FI, representing 25.7% in relation to the Total Income and  household monthly average change.

Non-monetary income - share of income equivalent to non-monetary expenses such as donations, own production and withdrawals from companies - was also relevant for those families living in households with moderate or severe FI, with 22.6% and 25.2%, respectively. In households with food security, this participation was 13.1%.

Self-perceived food standard is good in 20.3% of households with severe FI

The subjective perception of the standard of living related to food revealed that, in households with moderate FI, 30% rated the standard as good and 51.1% as satisfactory. In households with severe FI, 20.3% assessed the standard of living with regard to food as good and 45.8% as satisfactory.

Regarding self-perceived health, even in households with FS, the standard of living for this item was considered bad for 18.6%, a very high percentage, given that, in this segment, food, housing and education seen as bad represented 1.4%, 3.7% and 8.1%, respectively. In the case of households with severe FI, the assessment of the standard of living related to health was considered bad by 49.7% of the households, the worst of all questions.

Comparing households with FS with those with severe FI, in which the standard of living was seen as good, in terms of food, the difference was 51.3 percentage points (71.6% and 20.3% respectively). In the case of housing, the difference was 29.1 percentage points (73.7% and 44.6% respectively), for health, 26.2 percentage points (52.5% and 26.3% respectively) and for education, 20.7 points ( 66.5% and 45.8% respectively). In this last item, 8.1% of households with FS rated the standard of living as bad, compared to 27.2% of households with severe FI.