Participatory Rural Appraisal was conducted in two villages in Southern India in order to supplement formal survey information. One of the objectives was to develop a procedure for determining emic indicators of health and nutrition security. Four types of PRA were employed: i) participatory mapping (conducted separately by women and men) - to identify 'high' and 'low' risk households; ii) food charts - participants use beans to indicate the relative importance of foods consumed; iii) women's activity chart - beans are used to indicate the relative time spent on daily activities. iv) seasonality chart - this method was conducted with small groups (differentiated by gender and caste) to understand the yearly changes in rainfall, harvest of staples, food consumption, labour demand, childhood illness and women's illness. An ethnographer used in-depth interviews, key informant interviews, focus group and participant observation to conduct six household case studies in the two survey villages. The PRA techniques generated emic indicators of food-security which could be compared with the etic indicators of the formal survey.