Understanding Food Waste, Food Insecurity, and the Gap between the Two: A Nationwide Cross-Sectional Study in Saudi Arabia
Food waste and food insecurity may co-exist in various balances in developing and developed countries. This study aimed to explore the levels of food waste and food insecurity, the factors associated with them, and their relationships at the household and individual levels in Saudi Arabia. Methods: This study was a nationwide cross-sectional survey conducted via computer-assisted phone interviews in January 2021. Quota sampling was utilized to generate balanced distributions of participants by
... of participants by gender across all the administrative regions of Saudi Arabia. Data collection included household demographics, food waste and disposal, the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), and the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS). Results: Out of the 2807 potential participants contacted, 2454 (87.4%) completed the interview. The mean age was 31.4 (SD = 11.7; range = 18–99) and 50.1% were female. The weighted prevalence of uncooked food waste in the last four weeks was 63.6% and the cooked food waste was 74.4%. However, the food insecurity weighted prevalence at the individual level (FIES) was 6.8%. In terms of food insecurity at the household level (HFIAS), 13.3% were in the "severely food insecure" category. Moreover, this study found that "moderately food insecure" households were associated with an increased likelihood to waste uncooked food (relative risk (RR) = 1.25), and the "mildly food insecure" (RR = 1.21) and "moderately food insecure" (RR = 1.17) households were associated with an increased likelihood to waste cooked food. However, "food secure" households were associated with a decreased likelihood to waste cooked food (RR = 0.56). Finally, this study identified four household factors associated with food waste and three household factors that were associated with "severe food insecurity." Conclusions: This first national coverage study to explore food waste and food insecurity at the individual level and household level, identified household factors associated with food waste and food insecurity and identified new associations between food waste and food insecurity in Saudi Arabia. The associations found between food waste and food insecurity are potential areas of intervention to reduce both food waste and food insecurity at the same time, toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets related to food waste and food security.