The three indicators measure the nutritional value of food aid based on a simple idea: comparing supply and requirements. Human beings need certain amounts of nutrients in their food to live a healthy and active life. The proposed indicators compare the nutritional content of food aid to nutritional requirements, which vary by age, sex, activity level, health, nutritional status and climate. The humanitarian community has identified average requirements for important nutrients for beneficiary populations in emergencies, which are based on averages using the size of various age-sex groups as weights.
The proposed indicators do not compare the nutrients delivered to the actual needs of beneficiaries but to the requirements of an average individual in a developing country. The actual needs of beneficiaries could be different because of age, diseases, activity levels and other sources of food besides food aid.
The nutritional requirements are used as a yardstick for pragmatic and conceptual reasons. It provided a universal and fixed yardstick against which different food aid deliveries could be assessed. This increases comparability and kept the concept relatively simple. It also allows the indicators to be used for all kinds of food aid, irrespective of their destination or use. Comparing food aid deliveries to the actual nutritional needs of beneficiaries is not feasible as universal, comprehensive and detailed information on nutritional needs and gaps among beneficiaries is not available.