Minimum Meal Frequency
English: % of children 6–23 months of age who received solid, semi-solid or soft foods the minimum number of times or more the previous day or night
French: % d'enfants âgés de 6 à 23 mois ayant reçu des aliments solides, semi-solides ou mous le nombre minimum de fois ou plus, le jour ou la nuit précédents
Czech: % dětí ve věku 6-23 měsíců, které během uplynulého dne a noci konzumovaly alespoň minimální počet (frekvenci) tuhých, polotuhých nebo měkkých jídel
What is its purpose?
Meal frequency is an important indicator of a person's food security as well as an effective measure for preventing undernutrition. It is usually measured during the collection of dietary diversity data, such as Individual Dietary Diversity Score (IDDS) and Women Dietary Diversity Score (WDDS).
How to Collect and Analyse the Required Data
Collect the following data by conducting individual interviews with a representative sample of the targeted caregivers:
RECOMMENDED SURVEY QUESTIONS (Q) AND POSSIBLE ANSWERS (A)
(ask the following questions immediately after you assess the child's IDDS)
Q1: Can you please remind me her/ his exact age?
A1: ..... months
Q2: Did you breastfeed her/ him yesterday during the day or at night?
A2: yes / no
Q3: Can you please count how many meals and snacks - including fruit - did s/he eat yesterday?
A3: ..... meals and snacks
NOTE: always verify the number of meals and snacks with what you recorded in the Recording Meals Form used for measuring IDDS.
According to WHO, a "Minimum Meal Frequency" is considered eating 2 times per day for breastfed infants aged 6–8.99 months, 3 times per day for breastfed children aged 9–23.99 months and 4 times per day for non-breastfed children aged 6–23.99 months.
Calculate the indicator's value by dividing the number of children aged 6-23.99 months who met the "minimum meal frequency" by the total number of surveyed children aged 6-23.99 months and multiplying the result by 100.
1) Meal frequency can be prone to seasonal differences (during the lean season, poor households commonly reduce the number of eaten meals). Do your best to collect baseline and endline data at the same times of a year; otherwise you will receive two sets of data which are not comparable.
2) This indicator relies on accurate age assessment. Since people often do not remember the exact dates of their children’s birth, the data collectors should never rely only on the information provided by caregivers and always verify the child’s age. This can be done by reviewing the child’s birth certificate or other documents; however, since many caregivers do not have such documents, it is essential that your data collectors are able to determine the child’s age by using local events calendars. Read FAO’s Guidelines (see below) to learn how to prepare local events calendars and how to train data collectors in their correct use.
3) Ensure that enumerators clearly understand and explain to the respondent that even snacks, such as fruit, need to be counted in - including those consumed during the previous night.
4) Comparing the reported number of eaten meals with what the enumerator previously recorded in the Recording Meals Forms (see IDDS indicator) is an effective way of verifying that none of the eaten meals was forgotten.
5) Avoid collecting data during the fasting periods (such as pre-Easter time or Ramadan) and during the fasting days.
5) Ensure that your data is age and gender segregated.
Access Additional Guidance
- WHO (2008) Indicators for Assessing IYCF Practices Part 1: Definitions (English version) (.pdf)
- WHO (2008) Indicators for Assessing IYCF Practices Part 1: Definitions (French version) (.pdf)
- WHO (2010) Indicators for Assessing IYCF Practices Part 2: Measurement (French version) (.pdf)
- WHO (2010) Indicators for Assessing IYCF Practices Part 2: Measurement (English version) (.pdf)
- FAO (2008) Guidelines for Estimating the Month and Year of Birth of Young Children (.pdf)