Food Security


Definition

The term food security has multiple definitions and uses. It can refer to the risks associated with consuming certain food products, such as exposure to toxins or harmful bacteria. However, in recent years, “food security” has come to refer most often to the availability of, access to, and the utilization of food[1] [2] [3]

Food_SecurityChart.pngBecause the global food system has many material, environmental and social costs, food security is an issue of particular importance to policy makers; world health, economic, and humanitarian organizations; and environmental and human rights activists. Organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO), World health Organization (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Bank, and the United Nations (UN) have made food security central to their research and intervention initiatives. For example, the United Nations listed the global eradication of hunger as one of their Millennium Development Goals.

A lack of food security is referred to as **food insecurity. Food insecurity** exists when people do not have adequate physical, social or economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life[4]


History


The World Health Organization (WHO) and Food Security

According to the WHO, food security combines both physical and economic access to food sources. They include in their definition not just access to food, but also access to quality food. Thus, they incorporate the increasing number of industrialized nations facing health problems related to over-nutrition due to a lack of access to healthful foods. They state:
Food security is built on three pillars:
Food availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis.
Food access: having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet
Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation

…Food security is a complex sustainable development issue, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, environment, and trade…Issues such as whether households get enough food, how it is distributed within the household and whether that food fulfils the nutrition needs of all members of the household show that food security is clearly linked to health.

Issues such as whether households get enough food, how it is distributed within the household and whether that food fulfills the nutrition needs of all members of the household show that food security is clearly linked to health. The above official WHO statement recognizes the complexity of food security and highlights its impact on global health and sustainability.

Food Security and Health

As implied by the World Health Organization, food security has significant health implications. Food insecurity has been cited as the cause of malnutrition (both under and over nutrition), chronic hunger, retarded growth and development in children, low-birth weight, the spread of infections diseases, and infant and child mortality.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Barriers to Food Security

In 1994, the USAID[5] created a report outlining the magnitude of food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. In this report, USAID lists some “root causes” of global food insecurity. These root causes are supported by scholarly research and other world organizations dedicated to increasing global food security. Barriers to food security include:

root_causes.png

Climate change, agricultural practices that lead to land degradation and do not promote biodiversity*, poverty, and war are most often cited as causal factors.

Measurementclip_image002.jpg

While food security is often discussed as a global crisis, measurements of food security combine household factors and national statistics. These measurements take consumption, household income, national income, employment, and poverty levels into account. Food security at the household level may also be measured by collecting qualitative accounts of uncertain access to food. Kathy Radimer, who has been credited with defining current understandings of food security, created the Radimer/Cornell instruments to standardize measures of food security.

Also at the household measurement level is the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale. It measures household access to food over a 30 day period and is based on self reported data. Another useful measure is the Aggregate Household Food Security Index developed by the FAO. The following formula and key comes from the FAO

AHFSI = 100-[H{G+(1-G)IP} + 0.5 {1-H[G-(1-G)IP]}]10

H is a head-count of the proportion of the total population undernourished
G is a measure of the extent of the food gap of the average undernourished shortfall in dietary energy from national average requirements
Ip is a measure of inequality in the distribution of the individual food gaps of the undernourished, based on the Gini coefficient

*Gini coefficient is the coefficient of variation in dietary energy supplies, which gives the probability of facing temporary food shortage.


Case Studies/ Examples


International Governance and Aid:



Famine Early Warning System (FEWS NET)

Large scale and lasting famine in Africa inspired the USAID to develop a Famine Early Warning System (FEWS NET) to understand barriers to food security on a regional basis. This system tracks natural resource constraints, population vulnerabilities, food prices, and climatological factors, combining them to inform economic and environmental policy, develop regional institutions and coordinate donor agencies. The use of systems like FEWS NET place international and government agencies at the center of food security initiatives.

US Department of State




In 2009, the United States Department of State, headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton, announced its global hunger and food security initiative, "to sustainably reduce chronic hunger, raise the incomes of the rural poor, and reduce the number of children suffering from under-nutrition."

The department lists five principles for advancing global food security:
  1. Comprehensively address the underlying causes of hunger and under-nutrition
  2. Invest in country-led plans
  3. Strengthen strategic coordination
  4. Leverage the benefits of multilateral institutions
  5. Make sustained and accountable commitments

The United Nations

In 2008, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations established a high level task force on the global food security crisis. According the UN officials, "the primary aim of the Task Force is to promote a comprehensive and unified response to the challenge of achieving global food security, including by facilitating the creation of a prioritized plan of action and coordinating its implementation." A comprehensive framework for action includes but is not limited to contributions from the following international organizations:

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
World Bank (WB)
World Food Programme (WFP)
World Health Organisation
World Trade Organization

The World Health Organization is an important member of this task force because it monitors and documents the impacts of food insecurity in multiple geographic locations. Their key considerations include:
  • Underscore the human dimension of the crisis.
  • Monitor its impact on nutrition, health and poverty, plus its effect on the Millennium Development Goals.
  • Provide sound information and analyses to target the most vulnerable groups.

Central Emergency Response Fund

CERF was established in 2009 by the United Nations to provide supplementary funding to humanitarian relief organizations offering assistance to areas affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts. It is jointly funded by public and private donors in 76 member states. Beginning in 2008, as a result of increased food prices, food related aid programs like the World Food Program began receiving the most funding of any agencies to respond to decreased food security. According to CERF:

The objective is to protect those most vulnerable to food price shocks from nutritional deprivation, from resorting to harmful coping strategies such as selling assets (including livestock), forced migration, sexual exploitation, and from a reduction in their real purchasing power. Such protection not only saves lives, it strengthens livelihoods and promotes longer term development.

A global prioritization of countries was undertaken to identify the "most nutritionally vulnerable groups: young children under five, pregnant and lactating mothers, and single female-headed households." Countries with existing humanitarian situations, facing food shortages affecting these groups, would be given priority funding
LISTEN: NPR: Aid Workers Fight Starvation in West Africa

Geographic Areas of Interest

Many food security efforts are focused on “developing” countries in Africa, Asia, India, and Latin America. These areas often experience the highest concentrations of unemployment and poverty, civil strife, and poor economic policy environments. However, studies of food security in industrialized nations are becoming more prevalent. In areas like the United States and Canada, poverty remains a key contributor to food insecurity. When studying food security and health, researchers make a distinction between urban and rural food security because the nutritional outcomes, though equally dire, are different. In rural areas, food insecurity contributes to diseases of undernutrition and starvation, whereas urban food insecurity is linked to overnutrition or diseases of dietary excess such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Overnutrition is caused by the lack of economic and physical access to healthful foods.

Lesotho

In 2007, Lesotho experienced such a severe drought that the United Nations declared a state of emergency. CERF funds totaling 4.7 million dollars were granted to alleviate the most immediate effects of the drought, which included widespread hunger. The effects of this drought, impacting several harvests, has attracted the attention of organizations like the FAO, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, and the UNPF (the United Nations Population Fund). It has also attracted attention from numerous disciplines including anthropology. David Himmelgreen[6] [7] and Nancy Romero-Daza, along with Charlotte Noble (University of South Florida) have applied an anthropological lens to the impact of the global food crisis and HIV/AIDS in this region. They found that in resource poor areas like Lesotho, there is a strong relationship between food insecurity and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Poverty motivates some people exchange sex for food, increasing their risk of HIV/AIDS, while those afflicted with this illness find that in their weakened state they cannot work, plunging them further into poverty [8] They provide valuable insight into how local agricultural initiatives can increase food security. Local production strategies like keyhole and trench there gardens may be able to increase dietary diversity and food security through direct access to vegetables, and through the sale of surplus vegetables.[9] Such programs may also enhance coping strategies and social networks.[10] A comprehensive review of anthropological work on food security in Africa can be found in Parker Shipton's 1990 article, African Famines and Food Security: Anthropological Perspectives.


Related Terms


food insecurity
global food crisis
hunger
malnutrition

Online Resources


Famine Early Warning System: FEWS NET
Sowing the Seeds of Hunger
Millennium Development Goals
http://www.environmentmagazine.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/July-August%202010/bytes-of-note.html
African Famines and Food Security: Anthropological Perspectives
Food Security From a Practitioner Standpoint (2008)


Further Reading


The Global Food Crisis: New Insights into an age old problem (2010)
African Famines and Food Security: Anthropological Perspectives (1990)
Food Security From a Practitioner Standpoint (2008)
Challenges to Monitoring and Evaluating HIV and AIDS Programming: Experiences from Lesotho. African Journal of AIDS Research (2009)
Addressing the HIV/AIDS–Food Insecurity Syndemic in Sub-Saharan Africa. African Journal of AIDS Research (2009)


References


  1. ^ Gregory, P.J. et al. (2005) Climate Change and Food Security. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences 360(1463): 2139-2148
  2. ^ Lawrence, Geoffrey et al.(2010) Food Security, nutrition and sustainability. London: Earthscan.
  3. ^ Schanbacher, William D. (2010) Emergence of a Global Food Regime. In Politics of Food: The Global Conflict Between Food Security and Food Sovereignty. Pp 21-23. Praeger Security International.
  4. ^ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2003) Food Security: Concepts and Measurement. In Trade Reforms and Food Security: Conceptualizing Linkages. Pp. 25-32. Rome.
  5. ^ USAID (1994) The Magnitude of Food Security. In Building a Foundation for Food Security and Crisis Prevention in the Greater Horn of Africa: A Concept Paper for Discussion. http://www.usaid.gov/regions/afr/ghai/cycle/causes.html. accessed April 4, 2010.
  6. ^ Himmelgreen, David. (2008) Food Security and the Battle Against HIV/AIDS. In Focus Oct:13-14.
  7. ^ Himmelgreen, D. A., N. Romero-Daza, D. Turkon, S. Watson, I. Okello-Uma and D. Sellen. (2009) Addressing the HIV/AIDS–Food Insecurity Syndemic in Sub-Saharan Africa. African Journal of AIDS Research, 8 (4): 4010-412
  8. ^ Turkon, D., D. Himmelgreen, N. Romero-Daza and C. Noble.(2009) Challenges to Monitoring and Evaluating HIV and AIDS Programming: Experiences from Lesotho. African Journal of AIDS Research, 8 (4): 473-480.
  9. ^ Noble, Charlotte A. (2010). Small Plots, Big Hopes: Factors Associated with Participation in an Urban Garden Project in Lesotho. Masters Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida. http://digital.lib.usf.edu:8080/fedora/get/usfldc:E14-SFE0004756/DOCUMENT
  10. ^ Noble, Charlotte A. (2010). Small Plots, Big Hopes: Factors Associated with Participation in an Urban Garden Project in Lesotho. Masters Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida. http://digital.lib.usf.edu:8080/fedora/get/usfldc:E14-SFE0004756/DOCUMENT