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Discuss the Concept of Food Security

The WHO defines food security as: “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” This means that people have both physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs and food preferences. Food security can be on many different scales at a global, national and household level. However, food security is not global, and there is also food insecurity to contend with for some poorer regions.

Global food security was defined by the UN world food conference in 1974 as the availability, at all times, of adequate world supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption globally and to offset fluctuations in production and prices. To an extent, this means that food security only exists when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Due to population increase in some places people are already not getting enough food. Supply and demand also cause problems for the more vulnerable in society, as if prices go up, the supply of food should still be affordable for all. Therefore, national food security is at the smaller scale having enough food available within a country to feed all the people within the country.

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This can be achieved by sufficiency inside a country to produce enough food for the population or by generating enough money from exports to buy imported food. Household and individual food security are essential. Although there is enough food globally, this does not mean that an individual has enough to eat. Food secure households need sustainable access to enough food and ways of resisting shocks. Access to food depends on the ability to grow, gather or purchase enough food. This can be affected by environmental conditions, availability of work, price of food and the season.

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Households may have sufficient food to meet immediate needs, but their source may not be sustainable due to decreasing land fertility, increasing prices or dependence on wages from seasonal labour. Households must also have reserves to withstand shocks like a crop failure, death or illness of the wage earner, conflict or deterioration in the world’s economy. In addition, an individual can be affected due to gender or age; even in a secure food household, the distribution may be uneven between the family members. In some countries, the boys prioritize food, so the girls eat less, and many poor women go hungry to feed their children.

However, food security is only possible for some nations; many regions suffer from food insecurity which exists when people lack access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food. Therefore, are not consuming enough for an active and healthy life. This may be due to the unavailability of food, inadequate purchasing power or inappropriate utilization at the household level. In addition, this can be caused by food deficiencies caused by a local shortage of food due to physical factors such as a pivotal effect on food supplies, problems of transport, storage and relief organizations. This is called food availability deficit (FAD), and another cause is more common, called a food entitlement deficit (FED).

This is when hunger is found in areas where food is available in supply and, in fact, increasing production. When FED is the cause of food insecurity is important to look at the political and economic situation of the community concerned, and also how food is produced distributed and consumed. It also shows that there are barriers to food e.g. rising costs relative to wages. Looking at Amartya Sen’s work in 1981 there are complex causes of food insecurity and famines (etc.) where physical factors can be a catalyst.

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The human and natural causes of food insecurity are combined with a vulnerability that leads to food insecurity. Food security and food insecurity are linked as they are two halves of the same problem. Firstly the scale of food security varies greatly spatially whereas food insecurity changes depending on the economic and political situation of the area, it also depends on the vulnerability to effects, both physical and human, in the area.

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