Chronically undernourished individuals rarely receive dietary energy considered by nutritionists to be necessary for light activity and good health. The Food and Agriculture Organization (2002) defines food security as a goal achieved "when all people at all times have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life." The World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development employ similar definitions of food security.
Defining food security as access to food omits another important dimension of food needs, namely availability. Food availability refers to the supply of food from production, imports, or stocks. Global food availability has not been a problem for decades. International food supply per capita has been rising and has been more than adequate to serve nutritional needs of all — not just of those who have the means to acquire food. Food availability will not be a problem for the foreseeable future at the global level, although projections indicate that the global food supply-demand balance will be tighter and the reduction in real food prices will be less in the future than during the past several decades (Tweeten, 1998).
Food access refers to the ability of individuals to acquire food through purchasing power or through transfers from family or others. With perennial availability of food in world markets for anyone, perhaps it is not surprising that food accessibility is the major constraint to food security.
Most food-insecure people live in rural areas of developing countries. Many are subsistence farmers. For them, food production (availability) is also buying power (accessibility). Food consumers everywhere outnumber producers, and poverty is widespread among landless peasants, hired agricultural workers, and smallholders in poor countries. Thus it is not surprising that most hungry individuals are net food buyers (Barraclough, 1991). It follows that it is important to lower food prices and raise food production along with productivity and real incomes to promote food security.
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