By: Kerry Bazany
I’ve written on this topic of food insecurity before, but it continually amazes and even startles me out of my complacency when I read the related statistics.
It is a problem that is not going away anytime soon, and sadly, we are running out of resources. Follow me as we take a moment to discuss food insecurity, and what it means for all of us.
What is Food Insecurity?
To define, food insecurity refers to a “lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household.” The United States Department of Agriculture offers yet another definition as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” In 2016, an estimated 1 in every 8 Americans were food insecure, equating to 42 million Americans, including 13 million children.
Who Are the Food Insecure?
So as not to arouse contradiction and misunderstanding, food insecurity must be distinguished from hunger. When hungry, an uneasy or perhaps painful sensation is caused by lack of food, whether it is intermittent, constant, or recurrent. Hunger can cause malnutrition over time, and is a potential result of food insecurity. Those who research the phenomenon of food insecurity find it difficult to provide a measurable way to evaluate it because hunger itself is hard to measure. Hunger can be characterized on an individual level as a construct of physiological symptoms, whereas measurable economic and social patterns of food insecurity can be discerned and analyzed. Again, hunger is often a consequence of food insecurity and it is far easier to address it when, under the guise of food insecurity, it can be mapped, measured, and reported.
With this distinction in mind, chronic food insecurity can be equated with chronic hunger. Hunger is experienced by 11 percent of the global population, and numbers are on the rise: the amount of undernourished people (those that are most food insecure) on the planet rose from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2017, and that includes individuals right here in the US. The statistics are staggering, and as I’ve stated in previous articles, there is really no conscionable reason that people should go hungry, or remain in a state of constant food insecurity.
Multi-Faceted Reasons for the Existence of Food Insecurity
The problem of food insecurity is impossible to encapsulate in one all-encompassing approach. Essential components in the drive to reduce and eventually eliminate food insecurity must be comprehensive, integrative, and exhaustive. Not only is chronic hunger an element, but food insecurity can also be expressed in the overwhelming numbers of individuals who are obese or even though having access to food on a daily basis, are still under nourished because of the lack of essential nutrients needed for a healthy life.
In a recent United Nations summit in Brazil, the Secretary General emphasized worldwide focus on a lofty initiative known as the “Zero Hunger Challenge”. Initiated in 2012 by the UN, this initiative has a five-pronged approach that relies on development partners to pledge their resources into policy and program implementation as well as mobilization of such resources. These five SDG’s, or sustainable development goals, are:
- All food systems are sustainable: from production to consumption
- End rural poverty: double small-scale producer incomes and productivity
- Adapt all food systems to eliminate loss or waste of food
- Access adequate food and healthy diets for all people, year round
- End malnutrition in all its forms
The United Nations initiative offers comprehensive ideas to confront food insecurity through several programs, including:
- The World Food Programme (WFP) responds to emergencies by bringing food assistance to more than 80 million people in 80 countries as well as the sponsoring of programs that employ food to build assets and nurture communities.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) endeavors to ensure that people have regularaccess to high quality food in order to promote healthy lifestyles. The FAO has three primary goals: to eradicate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; to eliminate poverty through social improvement and progression; and to sustain the effective management and utilization of natural resources. The FAO additionally issues the food price index: a measure of the monthly change in international prices of food commodities.
- The World Bankinvests in rural agricultural development in order to increase food production and therefore nutrition by encouraging climate-smart farming techniques and restoring degraded farmland.
- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) exclusively focuses on reducing rural poverty in developing countries and working with these populations to raise productivity and improve the quality of their lives. The IFAD has supported over 400 million poor rural men and women over the past three decades.
A Deadline is Looming
As I’ve previously stated in articles regarding food insecurity, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to go hungry, or remain in a state of food insecurity. This is especially true for well-developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and others. Indeed, this also applies to worldwide food insecurity, though the reasons for both homeland and world food insecurity is multi-faceted. The causative factors for food insecurity and various approaches and schools of thought will be further explored in future articles. And we need to begin now, for according to the World Bank branch of the United Nations,
“The world needs to produce at least 50% more food to feed 9 billion people by 2050. But climate change could cut crop yields by more than 25%. The land, biodiversity, oceans, forests, and other forms of natural capital are being depleted at unprecedented rates. Unless we change how we grow our food and manage our natural capital, food security—especially for the world’s poorest—will be at risk.” (World Bank, 2016).
Our world is growing. Our food sources are dwindling. We are running out of space. Our current crops will not be able to sustain our growing population for long. The time for change is now before it is too late.
MakeFood Safe is proud to announce this is the first post in a series on Food Insecurity. Stay tuned for upcoming related posts on Food Insecurity from our amazing contributor Kerry.