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Food security is the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious . The availability of food for people of any class, gender or religion is another element of food security. Similarly, food security is considered to exist when all the members of a family, at all times, have access to enough food for an active, life. Individuals who are food-secure do not live in or fear of . Food security includes resilience to future disruptions of food supply. Such a disruption could occur due to various risk factors such as and , shipping disruptions, fuel shortages, economic instability, and wars. Food insecurity is the opposite of food security: a state where there is only limited or uncertain availability of suitable food.

The concept of food security has evolved over time. The four pillars of food security include availability, access, utilization, and stability. In addition, there are two more dimensions that are important: agency and . These six dimensions of food security are reinforced in conceptual and legal understandings of the right to food. The World Food Summit in 1996 declared that "food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure."

There are many possible causes of food insecurity. The most important ones are high food prices and disruptions in global food supplies for example due to war. There is also , , , agricultural diseases, and disease outbreaks that can all lead to food insecurity.

The effects of food insecurity can include and even . Chronic food insecurity translates into a high degree of vulnerability to hunger and famine. can respond to chronic hunger and by decreasing the body size of children, known in medical terms as or stunted growth. Once stunting has occurred, improved nutritional intake after the age of about two years is unable to reverse the damage. Severe malnutrition in early childhood often leads to defects in cognitive development.

(2024). 9780521004886, Cambridge University Press.

Food security, as defined by the World Food Summit in 1996, is "when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life".

Food insecurity, on the other hand, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a situation of "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways."

At the 1974 World Food Conference, the term food security was defined with an emphasis on supply; it was defined as the "availability at all times of adequate, nourishing, diverse, balanced and moderate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset the fluctuations in production and prices." Later definitions added demand and access issues to the definition. The first World Food Summit, held in 1996, stated that food security "exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."

Chronic (or permanent) food insecurity is defined as the long-term, persistent lack of adequate food. In this case, households are constantly at risk of being unable to acquire food to meet the needs of all members. Chronic and transitory food insecurity are linked since the reoccurrence of transitory food security can make households more vulnerable to chronic food insecurity.

, the concept of food security has mostly focused on food rather than the quality and of food. The concept of nutrition security or nutritional security evolved as a broader concept. In 1995, it was defined as "adequate nutritional status in terms of protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals for all household members at all times."QAgnes R. Quisumbing, Lynn R. Brown, Hilary Sims Feldstein, Lawrence James Haddad, Christine Peña Women: The key to food security. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Food Policy Report. 26 pages. Washington. 1995 It is also related to the concepts of nutrition education and nutritional deficiency.

Food security can be measured by the number of calories to digest per person per day, available on a household budget. In general, the objective of food security indicators and measurements is to capture some or all of the main components of food security in terms of food availability, accessibility, and utilization/adequacy. While availability (production and supply) and utilization/adequacy (nutritional status/ anthropometric measurement) are easier to estimate and therefore more popular, accessibility (the ability to acquire a sufficient quantity and quality of food) remains largely elusive. The factors influencing household food accessibility are often context-specific.

FAO has developed the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) as a universally applicable experience-based food security measurement scale derived from the scale used in the United States. Thanks to the establishment of a global reference scale and the procedure needed to calibrate measures obtained in different countries, it is possible to use the FIES to produce cross-country comparable estimates of the prevalence of food insecurity in the population. Since 2015, the FIES has been adopted as the basis to compile one of the indicators included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) monitoring framework.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children's Fund () collaborate every year to produce The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, or SOFI report (known as The State of Food Insecurity in the World until 2015).

The SOFI report measures chronic hunger (or undernourishment) using two main indicators, the Number of undernourished (NoU) and the Prevalence of undernourishment (PoU). Beginning in the early 2010s, FAO incorporated more complex metrics into its calculations, including estimates of food losses in retail distribution for each country and the volatility in agri-food systems. Since 2016, it has also reported the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity based on the FIES.

Several measurements have been developed to capture the access component of food security, with some notable examples developed by the USAID-funded Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (FANTA) project. These include:

  • Household Food Insecurity Access Scale – measures the degree of food insecurity (inaccessibility) in the household in the previous month on a discrete ordinal scale.
  • Household Dietary Diversity Scale – measures the number of different food groups consumed over a specific reference period (24hrs/48hrs/7days).
  • Household Hunger Scale – measures the experience of household food deprivation based on a set of predictable reactions, captured through a survey and summarized in a scale.
  • Coping Strategies Index (CSI) – assesses household behaviors and rates them based on a set of varied established behaviors on how households cope with food shortages. The methodology for this research is based on collecting data on a single question: "What do you do when you do not have enough food, and do not have enough money to buy food?"

Prevalence of food insecurity
Close to 12 percent of the global population was severely food insecure in 2020, representing 928 million people -148 million more than in 2019. A variety of reasons lie behind the increase in hunger over the past few years. Slowdowns and downturns since the 2008-9 financial crisis have conspired to degrade social conditions, making undernourishment more prevalent. Structural imbalances and a lack of inclusive policies have combined with extreme weather events, altered environmental conditions, and the spread of pests and diseases, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, triggering stubborn cycles of and hunger. In 2019, the high cost of healthy diets together with persistently high levels of income inequality put healthy diets out of reach for around 3 billion people, especially the poor, in every region of the world.

Inequality in the distributions of assets, resources and income, compounded by the absence or scarcity of welfare provisions in the poorest of countries, is further undermining access to food. Nearly a tenth of the world population still lives on US$1.90 or less a day, with sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia the regions most affected.

High import and export dependence ratios are meanwhile making many countries more to external shocks. In many low-income economies, debt has swollen to levels far exceeding GDP, eroding growth prospects.

Finally, there are increasing risks to institutional stability, persistent violence, and large-scale population relocation as a consequence of the conflicts. With the majority of them being hosted in developing nations, the number of displaced individuals between 2010 and 2018 increased by 70% between 2010 and 2018 to reach 70.8 million.

(2024). 9789251329016, FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. .

Recent editions of the SOFI report ( The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World) present evidence that the decades-long decline in hunger in the world, as measured by the number of undernourished (NoU), has ended. In the 2020 report, FAO used newly accessible data from China to revise the global NoU downwards to nearly 690 million, or 8.9 percent of the world population – but having recalculated the historic hunger series accordingly, it confirmed that the number of hungry people in the world, albeit lower than previously thought, had been slowly increasing since 2014. On broader measures, the SOFI report found that far more people suffered some form of food insecurity, with 3 billion or more unable to afford even the cheapest healthy diet.

(2024). 9789251329108, FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO.
Nearly 2.37 billion people did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of 320 million people compared to 2019.
(2024). 9789251343258, FAO. .
(2024). 9789251346341, FAO.

FAO's 2021 edition of The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) further estimates that an additional 1 billion people (mostly in lower- and upper-middle-income countries) are at risk of not affording a healthy diet if a shock were to reduce their income by a third.

(2024). 9789251352083, FAO.

The 2021 edition of the SOFI report estimated the hunger excess linked to the COVID-19 pandemic at 30 million people by the end of the decade

(2024). 9789251346341, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
– FAO had earlier warned that even without the pandemic, the world was off track to achieve Zero Hunger or Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals – it further found that already in the first year of the pandemic, the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) had increased 1.5 percentage points, reaching a level of around 9.9 percent. This is the mid-point of an estimate of 720 to 811 million people facing in 2020 – as many as 161 million more than in 2019. The number had jumped by some 446 million in , 57 million in , and about 14 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

At the global level, the prevalence of food insecurity at a moderate or severe level, and severe level only, is higher among women than men, magnified in rural areas.

(2024). 9789251374382, FAO. .

In 2023, the Global Report on Food Crises revealed that acute hunger affected approximately 282 million people across 59 countries, an increase of 24 million from the previous year. This rise in food insecurity was primarily driven by conflicts, economic shocks, and . Regions like the and were among the hardest hit, highlighting the urgent need for targeted interventions to address and mitigate global hunger effectively.

Vulnerable groups most affected

Food insecurity in children can lead to developmental impairments and long term consequences such as weakened physical, intellectual and emotional development.

By way of comparison, in one of the largest food producing countries in the world, the United States, approximately one out of six people are "food insecure," including 17 million children, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2009. A 2012 study in the Journal of Applied Research on Children found that rates of food security varied significantly by race, class and education. In both kindergarten and third grade, 8% of the children were classified as food insecure, but only 5% of white children were food insecure, while 12% and 15% of black and Hispanic children were food insecure, respectively. In third grade, 13% of black and 11% of Hispanic children were food insecure compared to 5% of white children. Retrieved April 13, 2012

Gender inequality both leads to and is a result of food insecurity. According to estimates, girls and women make up 60% of the world's chronically hungry and little progress has been made in ensuring the equal right to food for women enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.[2] , World Food Programme Gender Policy Report. Rome, 2009.

At the global level, the in the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity grew even larger in the year of COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 SOFI report finds that in 2019 an estimated 29.9 percent of women aged between 15 and 49 years around the world were affected by anemia – now a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator (2.2.3).

The gap in food insecurity between men and women widened from 1.7 percentage points in 2019 to 4.3 percentage points in 2021.

Women play key roles in maintaining all four pillars of food security: as food producers and agricultural entrepreneurs; as decision-makers for the food and nutritional security of their households and communities and as "managers" of the stability of food supplies in times of economic hardship.

The gender gap in accessing food increased from 2018 to 2019, particularly at moderate or severe levels.

have been frequent in world history. Some have killed millions and substantially diminished the population of a large area. The most common causes have been and war, but the greatest famines in history were caused by . One economic policy example of famine was the (Great Famine) induced by the 's communist economic policy resulting in 7–10 million deaths.

In the late 20th century the Nobel Prize-winning economist observed that "there is no such thing as an apolitical food problem." While drought and other naturally occurring events may trigger famine conditions, it is government action or inaction that determines its severity, and often even whether or not a famine will occur. The 20th century has examples of governments, such as Collectivization in the Soviet Union or the Great Leap Forward in the People's Republic of China undermining the food security of their nations. Mass starvation is frequently a weapon of war, as in the blockade of Germany in World War I and World War II, the Battle of the Atlantic, and the blockade of Japan during World War I and World War II and in the enacted by .

Pillars of food security
The WHO states that three pillars that determine food security: food availability, food access, and food use and misuse. The FAO added a fourth pillar: the stability of the first three dimensions of food security over time. In 2009, the World Summit on Food Security stated that the "four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilization, and stability." Two additional pillars of food security were recommended in 2020 by the High-Level Panel of Experts for the Committee on World Food Security: agency and sustainability.

Food availability relates to the supply of food through production, distribution, and exchange. is determined by a variety of factors including and use; ; crop selection, , and management; breeding and management; and . Crop production can be affected by changes in rainfall and temperatures. The use of land, water, and energy to grow food often compete with other uses, which can affect food production. Land used for agriculture can be used for urbanization or lost to desertification, salinization or due to unsustainable agricultural practices. Crop production is not required for a country to achieve food security. Nations do not have to have the natural resources required to produce crops to achieve food security, as seen in the examples of Japan Food self-sufficiency rate fell below 40% in 2010 , Japan Times, August 12, 2011 and Singapore.

Because food consumers outnumber producers in every country, food must be distributed to different regions or nations. Food distribution involves the storage, processing, transport, packaging, and marketing of food. Food-chain infrastructure and storage technologies on farms can also affect the amount of food wasted in the distribution process. Poor transport infrastructure can increase the price of supplying water and fertilizer as well as the price of moving food to national and global markets. Around the world, few individuals or households are continuously self-reliant on food. This creates the need for a bartering, exchange, or cash economy to acquire food. The exchange of food requires efficient trading systems and market institutions, which can affect food security. Per capita world food supplies are more than adequate to provide food security to all, and thus food accessibility is a greater barrier to achieving food security.

Food access refers to the affordability and allocation of food, as well as the preferences of individuals and households. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted that the causes of hunger and malnutrition are often not a scarcity of food but an inability to access available food, usually due to . Poverty can limit access to food, and can also increase how vulnerable an individual or household is to food price spikes. Access depends on whether the household has enough income to purchase food at prevailing prices or has sufficient land and other resources to grow its food. Households with enough resources can overcome unstable harvests and shortages and maintain their access to food.

There are two distinct types of access to food: direct access, in which a household produces food using human and material resources, and economic access, in which a household purchases food produced elsewhere. Location can affect access to food and which type of access a family will rely on. The assets of a household, including income, land, products of labor, inheritances, and gifts can determine a household's access to food. However, the ability to access sufficient food may not lead to the purchase of food over other materials and services. Demographics and education levels of members of the household as well as the gender of the household head determine the preferences of the household, which influences the type of food that is purchased. A household's access to adequate nutritious food may not assure adequate food intake for all household members, as intrahousehold food allocation may not sufficiently meet the requirements of each member of the household. The adds that access to food must be available in socially acceptable ways, without, for example, resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies.

The monetary value of global food exports multiplied by 4.4 in nominal terms between 2000 and 2021, from US$380 billion in 2000 to US$1.66 trillion in 2021.

(2023). 9789251382622, FAO. .

The next pillar of food security is food utilization, which refers to the metabolism of food by individuals. Once the food is obtained by a household, a variety of factors affect the quantity and quality of food that reaches members of the household. To achieve food security, the food ingested must be safe and must be enough to meet the physiological requirements of each individual. affects food utilization, and can be affected by the preparation, processing, and cooking of food in the community and household.

Nutritional values of the household determine , and whether food meets cultural preferences is important to utilization in terms of psychological and social . Access to healthcare is another determinant of food utilization since the health of individuals controls how the food is metabolized. For example, intestinal parasites can take nutrients from the body and decrease food utilization. Sanitation can also decrease the occurrence and spread of diseases that can affect food utilization. Education about nutrition and food preparation can affect food utilization and improve this pillar of food security.

Food stability refers to the ability to obtain food over time. Food insecurity can be transitory, seasonal, or chronic. In transitory food insecurity, food may be unavailable during certain periods of time. At the food production level, natural disasters and drought result in crop failure and decreased food availability. Civil conflicts can also decrease access to food. Instability in markets resulting in food-price spikes can cause transitory food insecurity. Other factors that can temporarily cause food insecurity are loss of employment or productivity, which can be caused by illness. insecurity can result from the regular pattern of growing seasons in food production.

Agency refers to the capacity of individuals or groups to make their own decisions about what foods they eat, what foods they produce, how that food is produced, processed, and distributed within , and their ability to engage in processes that shape food system policies and governance. This term shares similar values to those of another important concept, .

refers to the long-term ability of food systems to provide food security and nutrition in a way that does not compromise the economic, social, and environmental bases that generate food security and nutrition for future generations.

Causes of food insecurity

High food prices

Pandemics and disease outbreaks

The Ebola outbreak in 2014 led to increases in the prices of in West Africa. Stringent lockdowns, travel restrictions, and disruptions to labor forces resulted in bottlenecks affecting the production and distribution of goods. Notably, the food supply chain experienced significant disruptions as the pandemic strained logistics, labor availability, and demand patterns. While progress in combating COVID-19 has provided some relief, the pandemic's lasting effects persist, including shifts in consumer behavior and the ongoing necessity for health and safety measures.

Fossil fuel dependence
Between 1950 and 1984, as the transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and -fueled . Eating Fossil Fuels. .

is a major feedstock for the production of , via the , for use in fertilizer production.

(2024). 9781412996778, SAGE. .
The development of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer has significantly supported global population growth — it has been estimated that almost half the people on Earth are currently fed as a result of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer use.

Agricultural diseases
Diseases affecting livestock or crops can have devastating effects on food availability especially if there are no contingency plans in place. For example, Ug99, a lineage of wheat , which can cause up to 100% crop losses, is present in wheat fields in several countries in Africa and the and is predicted to spread rapidly through these regions and possibly further afield, potentially causing a wheat production disaster that would affect food security worldwide.

Disruption in global food supplies due to war
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has disrupted global food supplies. The conflict has severely impacted food supply chains with noteworthy effects on production, sourcing, manufacturing, processing, logistics, and significant shifts in demand among nations reliant on imports from Ukraine. The European Union's imposition of sanctions on Russia has added complexity to trade relations. In Asia and the Pacific, many of those regions' countries depend on the importation of basic food staples such as wheat and also fertilizer, with nearly 1.1 billion lacking a healthy diet caused by poverty and ever-increasing food prices.

Environmental degradation and overuse

Land degradation
Intensive farming often leads to a vicious cycle of exhaustion of and a decline of agricultural yields. Other causes of include a history of U.S. settler colonialism and slavery, , overgrazing, over-exploitation of vegetation for use, and more. Approximately 40 percent of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded.

While the was critical in supporting a larger population through the mid-1900s to now by increasing crop yields, it has also resulted in environmental degradation particularly through land use, , and deforestation. Over-farming of agricultural land due to the Green Revolution has caused contamination and erosion of soil, and a reduction in biodiversity due to usage (as well as deforestation). Malnutrition rates and food insecurity could increase again as land and water resources are depleted.

Water scarcity
Regionally, Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of water-stressed countries of any place on the globe, as of an estimated 800 million people who live in Africa, 300 million live in a environment. It is estimated that by 2030, 75 million to 250 million people in Africa will be living in areas of high water stress, which will likely displace anywhere between 24 million and 700 million people as conditions become increasingly unlivable. Because the majority of Africa remains dependent on an agricultural lifestyle and 80 to 90 percent of all families in rural Africa rely upon producing their food, water scarcity translates to a loss of food security.

The can pose serious risks to food security. Risks can be posed both directly by overexploitation of food fish and indirectly through overexploitation of the fish that those food fish depend on for survival. In 2022 the United Nations called attention "considerably negative impact" on food security of the and industries in .

Food loss and waste
Food waste may be diverted for alternative human consumption when economic variables allow for it. In the 2019 edition of the State of Food and Agriculture, FAO asserted that food loss and waste have potential effects on the four pillars of food security. However, the links between food loss and waste reduction and food security are complex, and positive outcomes are not always certain. Reaching acceptable levels of food security and nutrition inevitably implies certain levels of food loss and waste. Maintaining buffers to ensure food stability requires a certain amount of food to be lost or wasted. At the same time, ensuring food safety involves discarding unsafe food, which then is counted as lost or wasted, while higher-quality diets tend to include more highly perishable foods.
(2024). 9789251374382, FAO. .

How the impacts on the different dimensions of food security play out and affect the food security of different population groups depends on where in the food supply chain the reduction in losses or waste takes place as well as on where nutritionally vulnerable and food-insecure people are located geographically.

Climate change
In 2023, significantly impacted food security, with extreme weather events being primary drivers in 18 countries, affecting over 77 million people. The year marked the hottest on record, leading to severe climatic disturbances such as , , and . These events disrupted agriculture, damaged crops, and decreased food availability, underlining the crucial need for urgent global action to adapt to and mitigate climate impacts to protect food sources.

Effects of food insecurity
Famine and hunger are both rooted in food insecurity. Chronic food insecurity translates into a high degree of vulnerability to famine and hunger; ensuring food security presupposes the elimination of that vulnerability.

Food insecurity can force individuals to undertake risky economic activities such as .

Food insecurity is also related to obesity for people living in – "" – neighborhoods where nutritious foods are unavailable or unaffordable. People living in these neighborhoods often have to turn to more accessible but less nutritious food which puts them at greater risk of health issues like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The International Monetary Fund cautioned in September 2022 that "the impact of increasing import costs for food and for those extremely vulnerable to food insecurity will add $9 billion to their balance of payments pressures – in 2022 and 2023." This would deplete countries' foreign reserves as well as their capacity to pay for food and fertilizer imports."

Stunting and chronic nutritional deficiencies
Many countries experience ongoing food shortages and distribution problems. These result in chronic and often widespread hunger amongst significant numbers of people. can respond to chronic hunger and malnutrition by decreasing body size, known in medical terms as or stunted growth. This process starts in utero if the mother is malnourished and continues through approximately the third year of life. It leads to higher infant and child mortality, but at rates far lower than during famines.
(2024). 9789151303055, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.
Once stunting has occurred, improved nutritional intake after the age of about two years is unable to reverse the damage. Severe malnutrition in early childhood often leads to defects in cognitive development. It, therefore, creates a disparity a between children who did not experience severe malnutrition and those who experience it.

Worldwide, the prevalence of child stunting was 21.3 percent in 2019, or 144 million children. Central Asia, Eastern Asia, and the Caribbean have the largest rates of reduction in the prevalence of stunting and are the only subregions on track to achieve the 2025 and 2030 stunting targets.

(2024). 9789251329108, FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO.
Between 2000 and 2019, the global prevalence of child stunting declined by one-third.
(2024). 9789251329108, FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO.

Data from the 2021 FAO SOFI showed that in 2020, 22.0 percent (149.2 million) of children under 5 years of age were affected by stunting, 6.7 percent (45.4 million) were suffering from wasting and 5.7 percent (38.9 million) were . FAO warned that the figures could be even higher due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Africa and Asia account for more than nine out of ten of all children with stunting, more than nine out of ten children with wasting, and more than seven out of ten children who are affected by being overweight worldwide.

Mental health outcomes
For depression and anxiety, food-insecure individuals have almost a threefold risk increase compared to food-secure individuals. Research has also found that food insecurity is linked to an increased risk of behaviors.

Approaches to food security

Food Justice Movement
The Food Justice Movement has been seen as a unique and multifaceted movement with relevance to the issue of food security. It has been described as a movement about social-economic and political problems in connection to environmental justice, improved nutrition and health, and activism. Today, a growing number of individuals and minority groups are embracing the Food Justice due to the perceived increase in hunger within nations such as the United States as well as the amplified effect of food insecurity on many minority communities, particularly the Black and Latino communities.

A possible way to learn about nutrition, and provide community activities and access to food is community gardening.

Agrifood systems resilience
According to FAO, resilient achieve food security. The resilience of agrifood systems refers to the capacity over time of agrifood systems, in the face of any disruption, to sustainably ensure availability of and access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for all, and sustain the livelihoods of agrifood systems' actors. Truly resilient agrifood systems must have a robust capacity to prevent, anticipate, absorb, adapt and transform in the face of any disruption, with the functional goal of ensuring food security and nutrition for all and decent livelihoods and incomes for agrifood systems' actors. Such resilience addresses all dimensions of food security, but focuses specifically on stability of access and sustainability, which ensure food security in both the short and the long term. Resilience-building involves preparing for disruptions, particularly those that cannot be anticipated, in particular through: diversity in domestic production, in imports,
(2024). 9789251353325, FAO.
and in supply chains; robust food transport networks;
(2024). 9789251353332, FAO.
and guaranteed continued access to food for all.
(2024). 9789251353318, FAO.

The FAO finds that there are six pathways to follow towards food systems transformation:

(2024). 9789251346341, FAO.

  1. integrating humanitarian, development and peacebuilding policies in conflict-affected areas;
  2. scaling up climate resilience across food systems;
  3. strengthening resilience of the most vulnerable to economic adversity;
  4. intervening along the food supply chains to lower the cost of nutritious foods;
  5. tackling poverty and structural inequalities, ensuring interventions are pro-poor and inclusive; and
  6. strengthening food environments and changing consumer behaviour to promote dietary patterns with positive impacts on human health and the environment.

Food and Agriculture Organization
is used to increase agricultural productivity.]]Over the last decade, FAO has proposed a "twin track" approach to fight food insecurity that combines sustainable development and short-term hunger relief. Development approaches include investing in rural markets and rural . In general, FAO proposes the use of public policies and programs that promote long-term economic growth that will benefit the poor. To obtain short-term food security, for seeds, , or access to services could promote agricultural production. The use of conditional or unconditional food or cash transfers is another approach promoted by FAO. Conditional transfers may include school feeding programs, while unconditional transfers could include general food distribution, or cash transfers. A third approach is the use of as safety nets to increase the purchasing power of households. FAO has stated that "approaches should be human rights-based, target the poor, promote gender equality, enhance long-term resilience and allow sustainable graduation out of poverty."

FAO has noted that some countries have been successful in fighting food insecurity and decreasing the number of people suffering from undernourishment. is an example of a country that has met the Millennium Development Goal hunger target. The FAO credited growth in agricultural productivity and macroeconomic stability for the rapid economic growth in the 1990s that resulted in an increase in food security. Irrigation systems were established through infrastructure development programs.

In 2020, FAO deployed intense advocacy to make healthy diets affordable as a way to reduce global food insecurity and save vast sums in the process. The agency said that if healthy diets were to become the norm, almost all of the health costs that can currently be blamed on unhealthy diets (estimated to reach US$1.3 trillion a year in 2030) could be offset; and that on the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions that are linked to unhealthy diets, the savings would be even greater (US$1.7 trillion, or over 70 percent of the total estimated for 2030).

(2024). 9789251329016 .

FAO urged governments to make nutrition a central plank of their agricultural policies, investment policies and social protection systems. It also called for measures to tackle food loss and waste, and to lower costs at every stage of food production, storage, transport, distribution and marketing. Another FAO priority is for governments to secure better access to markets for small-scale producers of nutritious foods.

The World Summit on Food Security, held in in 1996, aimed to renew a global commitment to the fight against hunger. The conference produced two key documents, the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action. The Rome Declaration called for the members of the United Nations to work to halve the number of chronically undernourished people on the Earth by 2015. The Plan of Action set several targets for government and non-governmental organizations for achieving food security, at the individual, household, national, regional, and global levels.

Another World Summit on Food Security took place at the FAO's headquarters in Rome between November 16 and 18, 2009.

FAO has also created a partnership that will act through the 's CAADP framework aiming to end hunger in Africa by 2025. It includes different interventions including support for improved food production, a strengthening of social protection and integration of the Right to Food into national legislation.FAO. 2015. Africa's Renewed Partnership to End Hunger by 2025. Accessed on 1 November 2015.

World Food Programme
The World Food Programme (WFP) is an agency of the United Nations that uses to promote food security and eradicate hunger and poverty. In particular, the WFP provides food aid to refugees and to others experiencing food emergencies. It also seeks to improve nutrition and quality of life to the most vulnerable populations and promote self-reliance. An example of a WFP program is the "Food For Assets" program in which participants work on new infrastructure, or learn new skills, that will increase food security, in exchange for food.

Global partnerships to achieve food security and end hunger
In April 2012, the Food Assistance Convention was signed, the world's first legally binding international agreement on food aid. The May 2012 Copenhagen Consensus recommended that efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition should be the first priority for politicians and private sector philanthropists looking to maximize the effectiveness of aid spending. They put this ahead of other priorities, like the fight against and .

Improving agricultural productivity to benefit the rural poor
According to the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, a major study led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), managing rainwater and more effectively, and using supplemental and small-scale irrigation, hold the key to helping the greatest number of poor people. It has called for a new era of water investments and policies for upgrading rainfed agriculture that would go beyond controlling field-level soil and water to bring new freshwater sources through better local management of rainfall and runoff.Molden, D. (Ed). Water for food, Water for life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture. Earthscan/IWMI, 2007. Increased agricultural productivity enables farmers to grow more food, which translates into better diets and, under market conditions that offer a level playing field, into higher farm incomes.

By the United States Agency for International Development
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) proposes several key steps to increasing agricultural productivity, which is in turn key to increasing rural income and reducing food insecurity. They include:
  • Boosting agricultural science and technology. Current agricultural yields are insufficient to feed the growing populations. Eventually, the rising agricultural productivity drives economic growth.
  • Securing property rights and access to finance
  • Enhancing through education and improved health
  • Conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms and democracy and governance based on principles of accountability and transparency in public institutions and the rule of law are basic to reducing vulnerable members of society.
In September 2022, the United States announced a $2.9 billion contribution to aid efforts of global food security at the UN General Assembly in New York. $2 billion will go to the U.S. Agency for International Development for its humanitarian assistance efforts around the world, along with $140 million for the agency's Feed the Future Initiative. The United States Department of Agriculture will receive $220 million to fund eight new projects, all of which is expected to benefit nearly a million children residing in food-insecure countries in Africa and East Asia. The USDA will also receive another $178 million for seven international development projects to support U.S. government priorities on four continents.

Alternative diets
Food security could be increased by integrating alternative foods that can be grown in compact environments, that are resilient to pests and disease, and that do not require complex supply chains. Foods meeting these criteria include , , and fungi-derived . While unpalatable on their own to most people, such raw ingredients might be processed into more palatable foods. With over 2000 identified edible insects, there are many options for consumption. Insects may provide a sustainable option for protein sources containing 13-77% protein by dry weight. The energy obtained by eating insects can be similar to other food sources like beef and chicken depending on what kind of insect is eaten. Insects may be a sustainable commercial farming option to support populations struggling with food security due to their nutrition and farming capacities, taking less room to cultivate than other protein sources.

Biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops
The use of genetically modified (GM) crops could make some contributions to food security in certain cases. The genome of these crops can be altered to address one or more aspects of the plant that may be preventing it from being grown in various regions under certain conditions. Many of these alterations can address the challenges that were previously mentioned above, including the , , and the climate change.

According to the book Climate Change and Food Security by Dr. Shankar Sah, "agriculture and , the popularized the use of conventional hybridization to increase yield by creating high-yielding varieties. Often, the handful of hybridized breeds originated in developed countries and was further hybridized with local varieties in the rest of the developing world to create high-yield strains resistant to local climate and diseases".

Some scientists question the safety and/or efficacy of as a panacea.

By country

In Afghanistan, about 35.5% of households are food insecure (as of 2018). The prevalence of underweight, stunting, and wasting in children under five years of age is also very high. In October 2021, more than half of Afghanistan's 39 million people faced an acute food shortage. On 11 November 2021, Human Rights Watch reported that Afghanistan is facing widespread due to collapsed economy and broken banking system. The UN World Food Program has also issued multiple warnings of worsening food insecurity.

In 2012, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) conducted a survey measuring nutrition, which included food security. It was reported that 4% of Australian households were food insecure. 1.5% of those households were severely food insecure. Additionally, the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), reported that certain demographics are more vulnerable to being food insecure; such as indigenous, elderly, regional, and single-parent households. Financial issues were cited as the main cause of food insecurity.

Climate change may present future challenges for Australia regarding food security, as Australia already experiences extreme weather. Australia's history in biofuel production and use of fertilizers has reduced the quality of the land. Increased extreme weather is projected to affect crops, livestock, and soil quality. Wheat production, one of Australia's main food exports, is projected to decrease by 9.2% by 2030. Beef production is also expected to fall by 9.6%.

Since 2005, has monitored the level of food insecurity by province and territory. Rates of food insecurity in Canada ranged from 11.1% in to 57% in as of a 2017-2018 survey. Of the 57% of household affected by food insecurity in Nunavut, almost half of them are severely food insecure. These rates of food security equal 4.4 million people, of which 1.2 million were under the age of 18. Some common co-occurring conditions were households with lower incomes, single-income, and renting rather than owning their home. Food insecurity is more prevalent in households that receive social assistance, Employment Insurance, and Worker's Compensation, as well as in pension-reliant homes. People who identified as Indigenous or Black also face higher rates of food insecurity than those who identify otherwise.

Food insecurity has been associated with a poorer quality of diet including a significant difference in intake which varies across age and sex. In a 2015 study, the caloric intake was higher in severely food insecure households however with fewer micronutrients indicating a shift towards less nutrient-dense food options. In addition to micronutrient deficiencies across all age groups, food insecurity is correlated with higher rates of chronic disease biomarkers. In Canada, food insecurity is associated with worse mental health and higher mortality rates.

The persistence of has been described as "critical for ensuring urban food security," particularly in Chinese cities. The influence of wet markets on urban food security includes food pricing and physical accessibility.

Calling food waste "shameful", General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, , launched Operation Empty Plate. Xi stressed that there should be a sense of crisis regarding food security. In 2020, China witnessed a rise in food prices, due to the COVID-19 outbreak and mass that wiped out the country's crops, which made food security a priority for Xi.

Democratic Republic of Congo
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), about 33% of households are food insecure, and nearly 60% in eastern provinces. Millions of DRC inhabitants are living below the poverty line, contributing to this widespread hunger in the country that in some cases is so severe, that families can't afford to eat everyday.
(2024). 9780393344158, Earth Policy Institute. .
A study showed the correlation of food insecurity and its negative effects on at-risk HIV adults in the Democratic Republic of Congo, exacerbating the vulnerability of these populations even further.

The state of food insecurity in the DRC has been long prevalent, but worsened greatly following the Congolese Wars (1996–1998; 1998–2003). In 2002, about 80% of the population lived below the poverty line, and more than 90% of the rural population had no easy access to safe drinking water. This contributed to the food insecurity of the nation, in which chronic infant malnutrition was over 45% for children under 5 years old. The nation's lack of access to markets, limited financial means, and low levels of food production have been other contributors to their poor levels of food security.

Furthermore, the nation has an influx of imported food products that are often of poor nutritional quality, but are placed at competitive prices that the nation can afford. This results in the majority of households turning to cheaper, high-calorie food products over more healthy, unaffordable, high-protein foods that are not as accessible to them. This then results in unbalanced and unhealthy diets that contribute to poor health outcomes for these populations. Furthermore, many urban areas are forced to turn to mainly consume bushmeat as their primary source of protein, because they cannot afford to access other types of safer, healthier and even more legal options.


’s population increased from just over 3 million to around 5.7 million people (as of 2019). Following their significant increase in population, Singapore then faced a significant decrease in agricultural land (from 25% allocated land in 1965 to less than 1% in 2014) making food production rates decline drastically. Due to the minimal amount of agricultural output, Singapore imports about 90% of their food. Singapore was rated as the top country in affordability, availability, quality, and safety. These conditions contribute to a high rate of food secure individuals, about 92.5% of the population have experienced no food security concerns. A challenge with this structure is that importing food leaves the country’s food supply chain vulnerable to price changes in the global food market from factors such as, disease (like Coronavirus) and climate change which can cause droughts and floods disrupting agriculture in countries like Thailand which Singapore relies on.

Singapore is implementing many different methods and techniques to increase internal agricultural output.

In 2019 the Singapore government launched the "30 by 30" program which aims to drastically reduce food insecurity through and .

South Africa
In , between a quarter and a third of households are food insecure. Following the COVID-19 lockdowns, child and household hunger have not decreased. In contrast, hunger has stabilized at a higher rate than pre-pandemic rates. This increase in hunger may be due to slow economic growth, low employment and a loss of government financial support following the pandemic. The social grants given by the government along with the child support grants, school food initiatives, and the Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Programme have all been influential in lowering the food insecurity rate particularly before the Coronavirus outbreak.

United States
National Food Security Surveys are the main survey tool used by the USDA to measure food security in the United States. Based on respondents' answers to survey questions, the household can be placed on a continuum of food security defined by the USDA. This continuum has four categories: high food security, marginal food security, low food security, and very low food security. The continuum of food security ranges from households that consistently have access to nutritious food to households where at least one or more members routinely go without food due to economic reasons. Economic Research Service report number 155 (ERS-155) estimates that 14.5 percent (17.6 million) of US households were food insecure at some point in 2012.

Data from 2018 about food security in the U.S. shows:

  • 11.1 percent (14.3 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2018.
  • In 6.8 percent of households with children, only adults were food insecure in 2018.
  • Both children and adults were food insecure in 7.1 percent of households with children (2.7 million households) in 2018.

Food insecurity is measured in the United States by questions in the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The questions asked are about anxiety that the household budget is inadequate to buy enough food, inadequacy in the quantity or quality of food eaten by adults and children in the household, and instances of reduced food intake or consequences of reduced food intake for adults and children.USDA, Food Security Measurement. A National Academy of Sciences study commissioned by the USDA criticized this measurement and the relationship of "food security" to hunger, adding "it is not clear whether hunger is appropriately identified as the end of the food security scale."

(2024). 9780309095969, .

Food insecurity is recognized as a social determinant of health, or a condition in the environment where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.

Poverty is closely associated with food insecurity but this relationship is not foolproof, in that not all people living below the poverty line experience food insecurity, and people who live above the poverty line can also experience food insecurity. Underlying factors of food insecurity relates to economic factors such as income.

In 2022, 28% of households experienced food insecurity. This insecurity has negative effects on transmission and household stability.

Uganda faces challenges associated with food security related to agricultural soil management, forest destruction, and anthropogenic pressure on the land. This is an issue as agriculture is the main form of food acquisition in places such as Tororo and Busia. In these areas the 90% of families rely on farming so disruptions to their farming could increase their chances of economic instability and food insecurity. Many families report that lack of funds, disease, and lack of land, among other variables, are significant barriers to food security. In the wetlands system associated in Uganda, 93% of families are food insecure with 75% of inhabitants eating 2 meals and 8% eating only 1 meal a day. This was made worse by socioeconomic factors like disease (HIV/AIDS), poverty, and agricultural reasons like land degradation or management (regulation of food production using wetlands).

Food insecurity is highly prevalent in Yemen, with 60% of the population being affected by agricultural decline. The Integrated Security Phase Classification system places 53% of Yemenis as at risk (36%) or as an emergency (17%). Between 23 and 30% of Yemenis must change their choice of food and compromise on the quality of their food to account for food shortages while 8 to 13% of Yemenis admit to decreasing the number of meals they eat. The state of nutrition is most dire for vulnerable populations like children who face developmental issues like stunting or wasting as a result of malnutrition. Over 462,000 Yemeni children are severely acutely malnourished which increases their risk of disease. In a 2019 study, children with severe acute malnutrition were reported to have an increased rate of measles, diarrhea, fever, and cough when compared to non-severely acutely malnourished children.

Society and culture

Food security related UN days
October 16 has been chosen as World Food Day, in honour of the date FAO was founded in 1945. On this day, FAO hosts a variety of events at its headquarters in Rome and around the world, as well as seminars with UN officials.
(2024). 9789251333594, FAO.

Human rights approach
The (UN) recognized the Right to Food in the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and has since said that it is vital for the enjoyment of all other rights.

United Nations Goals
The UN Millennium Development Goals were one of the initiatives aimed at achieving food security in the world. The first Millennium Development Goal states that the UN "is to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty" by 2015. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, advocates for a multidimensional approach to food security challenges. This approach emphasizes the physical availability of food; the social, economic and physical access people have to food; and the nutrition, safety and cultural appropriateness or adequacy of food.

Multiple different international agreements and mechanisms have been developed to address food security. The main global policy to reduce hunger and poverty is in the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular sets globally agreed targets to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030. Although there has been some progress, the world is not on track to achieve the global nutrition targets, including those on child stunting, wasting and overweight by 2030.

See also
  • Agricultural economics
  • Food price crisis
  • Food vs. fuel
  • Nutritional economics
  • Subsistence crisis
  • Theories of famines


External links

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