Food Security: History
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Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individuals' ability to access it. Affordability is only one factor. There is evidence of food security being a concern many thousands of years ago, with central authorities in ancient China and ancient Egypt being known to release food from storage in times of famine. At the 1974 World Food Conference the term "food security" was defined with an emphasis on supply. They said food security is 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 fluctuations in production and prices". Later definitions added demand and access issues to the definition. The final report of the 1996 World Food Summit states 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." Household food security exists when all members, at all times, have access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Individuals who are food secure do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. Food insecurity, on the other hand, is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as 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". Food security incorporates a measure of resilience to future disruption or unavailability of critical food supply due to various risk factors including droughts, shipping disruptions, fuel shortages, economic instability, and wars. In the years 2011–2013, an estimated 842 million people were suffering from chronic hunger. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, identified the four pillars of food security as availability, access, utilization, and stability. The United Nations (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. The 1996 World Summit on Food Security declared that "food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure".

  • pillars of food security
  • unavailability
  • resilience

1. Measurement

Food security can be measured by calorie to intake per person per day, available on a household budget.[1][2] 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 the sufficient quantity and quality of food) remains largely elusive.[3] The factors influencing household food accessibility are often context-specific.

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, collaborating with Cornell and Tufts University and Africare and World Vision.[4][5] These include:

  • Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) – continuously measures the degree of food insecurity (inaccessibility) in the household in the previous month
  • Household Dietary Diversity Scale (HDDS) – measures the number of different food groups consumed over a specific reference period (24hrs/48hrs/7days).
  • Household Hunger Scale (HHS)- 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?"[6][7][8]

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 for children.[9] 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 extreme end of the food security scale."[10]

The FAO, World Food Programme (WFP), and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) collaborate to produce The State of Food Insecurity in the World. The 2012 edition described improvements made by the FAO to the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) indicator that is used to measure rates of food insecurity. New features include revised minimum dietary energy requirements for individual countries, updates to the world population data, and estimates of food losses in retail distribution for each country. Measurements that factor into the indicator include dietary energy supply, food production, food prices, food expenditures, and volatility of the food system.[11] The stages of food insecurity range from food secure situations to full-scale famine.[12] A new peer-reviewed journal, Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, began publishing in 2009.[13]

2. Rates

Number of people affected by undernourishment in 2010–12 (by region, in millions) [14]. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1702838

With its prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) indicator, the FAO reported that almost 870 million people were chronically undernourished in the years 2010–2012. This represents 12.5% of the global population, or 1 in 8 people. The 2018 prevalence of food insecurity declined, for the first time, to the pre-recession(2007) level of 11.1 percent.[15] Higher rates occur in developing countries, where 852 million people (about 15% of the population) are chronically undernourished. The report noted that Asia and Latin America have achieved reductions in rates of undernourishment that put these regions on track for achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015.[11] The UN noted that about 2 billion people do not consume a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals.[16] In India, the second-most populous country in the world, 30 million people have been added to the ranks of the hungry since the mid-1990s and 46% of children are underweight.[17]

3. Examples of Food Insecurity

Famines 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 drought and war, but the greatest famines in history were caused by economic policy.

4. Food Security by Country

Percentage of population suffering from hunger, World Food Programme, 2013. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1916748

4.1. Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, about 35% of households are food insecure. The prevalence of under-weight, stunting, and wasting in children under 5 years of age is also very high.[18]

4.2. China

The persistence of wet markets has been described as "critical for ensuring urban food security",[19][20] particularly in Chinese cities.[21] The influence of wet markets on urban food security include food pricing and physical accessibility.[21]

4.3. Mexico

Food insecurity has been an issue for Mexico throughout its history. Although food availability is not the issue, severe deficiencies in the accessibility of food contributes to the insecurity. Between 2003 and 2005, the total Mexican food supply was well above the sufficient to meet the requirements of the Mexican population, averaging 3,270 kilocalories per daily capita, higher than the minimum requirements of 1,850 kilocalories per daily capita. However, at least 10 percent of the population in every Mexican state suffers from inadequate food access. In nine states, 25–35 percent live in food-insecure households. More than 10 percent of the populations of seven Mexican states fall into the category of Serious Food Insecurity.[22]

The issue of food inaccessibility is magnified by chronic child malnutrition, as well as obesity in children, adolescents, and family.[23]

Mexico is vulnerable to drought, which can further cripple agriculture.[24]

4.4. Singapore

In 2019, Singapore managed to produce only 13% of leafy vegetables, 24% of its eggs, and 9% of its fish. In 1965, it was still able to produce 60% of its vegetable demand, 80% of its poultry and 100% of its eggs. In 2019, it announced it launched the "30 by 30" program which aims to drastically reduce its food insecurity through hydroponic farms and aquaculture farms.[25][26]

4.5. United States

Infographic about food insecurity in the US. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1296629

The Agriculture Department defines food insecurity as "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways."[27] Food security is defined by the USDA as "access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life."[28]

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.[27] 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.[29] 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.

Across 2016, 2017 and 2018:[30][31][32]

  • 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.
  • 11.8 percent (15.0 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2017.
  • 7.4 percent (9.4 million) of U.S. households had low food security in 2016.
  • 4.9 percent (6.1 million) of U.S. households had very low food security at some time during 2016.
  • Both children and adults were food insecure in 8.0 percent of households with children (3.1 million households).

4.6. Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the second-largest country in Africa and is dealing with food insecurity. Although they have an abundance of natural resources, they lack accessibility of essential foods, which makes it difficult for the Congolese people in their daily lives. Malnutrition is high among children, which affects their ability, and children who live in a rural area are affected more than children who live in an urban area.[33] In the Democratic Republic of Congo, about 33% of households are food insecure; it is 60% in eastern provinces.[34] A study showed the correlation of food insecurity negatively affecting at-risk HIV adults in the Democratic Republic of Congo.[34]

In 2007–2008, grain prices increased and the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo went to civil unrest. There were riots and protests. Hunger is frequent in the country, but sometimes it is to the extreme that many families cannot afford to eat every day.[35] Bushmeat trade was used to measure the trend of food security. The trend signifies the amount of consumption in urban and rural areas. Urban areas mainly consume bushmeat because they cannot afford other types of meat.[36]

Feed the Future

In 2010, the government of the United States began the Feed the Future Initiative.[37] The initiative is expected to work on the basis of country-led priorities that call for consistent support by the governments, donor organizations, the private sector, and the civil society to accomplish its long-term goals.[37]

5. World Summit on Food Security

The World Summit on Food Security, held in Rome in 1996, aimed to renew a global commitment to the fight against hunger. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) called the summit in response to widespread under-nutrition and growing concern about the capacity of agriculture to meet future food needs. The conference produced two key documents, the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action.[38][39]

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 the year 2015. The Plan of Action set a number of 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.[40] The decision to convene the summit was taken by the Council of FAO in June 2009, at the proposal of FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf. Heads of state and government attended this summit.

6. Pillars of Food Security

Growth in food production has been greater than population growth. Food per person increased since 1961. Data source: Food and Agriculture Organization. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=2084040

The WHO states that there are three pillars that determine food security: food availability, food access, and food use and misuse.[41] The FAO adds a fourth pillar: the stability of the first three dimensions of food security over time.[42] In 2009, the World Summit on Food Security stated that the "four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilization, and stability".[43]

6.1. Availability

Food availability relates to the supply of food through production, distribution, and exchange.[44] Food production is determined by a variety of factors including land ownership and use; soil management; crop selection, breeding, and management; livestock breeding and management; and harvesting.[45] Crop production can be affected by changes in rainfall and temperatures.[44] The use of land, water, and energy to grow food often competes with other uses, which can affect food production.[46] Land used for agriculture can be used for urbanization or lost to desertification, salinization, and soil erosion due to unsustainable agricultural practices.[46] Crop production is not required for a country to achieve food security. Nations don't have to have the natural resources required to produce crops in order to achieve food security, as seen in the examples of Japan[47][48] and Singapore.[49]

Because food consumers outnumber producers in every country,[49] food must be distributed to different regions or nations. Food distribution involves the storage, processing, transport, packaging, and marketing of food.[45] Food-chain infrastructure and storage technologies on farms can also affect the amount of food wasted in the distribution process.[46] 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.[46] Around the world, few individuals or households are continuously self-reliant for food. This creates the need for a bartering, exchange, or cash economy to acquire food.[44] The exchange of food requires efficient trading systems and market institutions, which can affect food security.[50] 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.[49]

6.2. Access