Nutritional surveillance, as part of, or complementary to, the famine early warning system in Ethiopia, has been used to collect reports on local food security from community leaders using structured interviews. It is important to assess the extent to which this information reflects the food-related behaviour of the community. Information on various socio-economic variables related to nutrition was collected at the household and community level through interviews in western Shewa Province. The data was compared and generally the correspondence between the two was good. Information topics which might be missed using only the local leader, and ways to improve collection are discussed.