What is Food Security?

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Based on the 1996 World Food Summit , food security is defined 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.

The four main dimensions of food security:

  • Physical availability of food: Food availability addresses the “supply side” of food security and is determined by the level of food production, stock levels and net trade.
  • Economic and physical access to food: An adequate supply of food at the national or international level does not in itself guarantee household level food security. Concerns about insufficient food access have resulted in a greater policy focus on incomes, expenditure, markets and prices in achieving food security objectives.
  • Food utilization : Utilization is commonly understood as the way the body makes the most of various nutrients in the food. Sufficient energy and nutrient intake by individuals are the result of good care and feeding practices, food preparation, diversity of the diet and intra-household distribution of food. Combined with good biological utilization of food consumed, this determines the nutritional status of individuals.
  • Stability of the other three dimensions over time: Even if your food intake is adequate today, you are still considered to be food insecure if you have inadequate access to food on a periodic basis, risking a deterioration of your nutritional status. Adverse weather conditions, political instability, or economic factors (unemployment, rising food prices) may have an impact on your food security status.

For food security objectives to be realized, all four dimensions must be fulfilled simultaneously.

The World Bank Group works with partners to build food systems that can feed everyone, everywhere, every day by improving food security, promoting ‘nutrition-sensitive agriculture’ and improving food safety. The Bank is a leading financier of food systems. In fiscal year 2022, there was US$9.6 billion in new IBRD/IDA commitments to agriculture and related sectors

Activities include:

  • Strengthening safety nets to ensure that vulnerable families have access to food and water–and money in their pockets to make vital purchases
  • Delivering expedited emergency support by fast-tracking financing through existing projects to respond to crisis situations
  • Engaging with countries and development partners to address food security challenges. Instruments include rapid country diagnostics and data-based monitoring instruments and partnerships such as the  Famine Action Mechanism  and the  Agriculture Observatory
  • Promoting farming systems that use  climate-smart techniques , and produce a more diverse mix of foods, to improve food systems’ resilience, increase farm incomes and enable greater availability and affordability of nutrient-dense foods
  • Improving supply chains to reduce post-harvest food losses, improve hygiene in food distribution channels, and better link production and consumption centers
  • Applying an integrated “One Health” approach to managing risks associated with animal, human and environmental health
  • Supporting investments in research and development that enable increasing the micronutrient content of foods and raw materials
  • Advocating for policy and regulatory reforms to improve the efficiency and integration of domestic food markets and reduce barriers to food trade
  • Working with the private sector, government, scientists, and others to strengthen capacities to assess and manage  food safety risks in low and middle-income countries
  • Supporting long-term global food security programs: The Bank houses the  Global Agriculture and Food Security Program  (GAFSP) , a global financing instrument that pools donor funds and targets additional, complementary financing to agricultural development across the entire value chain.  Since its launch in 2010 by the G20 in response to the 2007-2008 food price crisis, GAFSP has reached over 13 million smallholder farmers and their families with over $1.3 billion in grant funding to 64 projects in 39 countries, $330 million to 66 agribusiness investment projects in 27 countries, and $13.2 million in small-scale grants to support producer organizations. Most recently, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, GAFSP allocated over $55 million of additional grant funding to on-going public sector and producer organization-led projects to support COVID-19 response and recovery.   
  • The Bank also supports the  CGIAR  which advances agriculture science and innovation to boost food and nutrition security globally.

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Essay on food security.

essay on food security for all


According to FAO, “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for a healthy and active life.”

This involves four dimensions:

i. Adequacy of food supply or availability;

ii. Stability of supply, without seasonal fluctuations or shortages;

ii. Accessibility to food or affordability; and

iii. Utilisation: quality and safety of food.

These factors include a broad spectrum of socioeconomic issues with great influence on farmers and on the impoverished in particular.

Large shares of the world’s small-scale farmers, particularly in central Asia and in Africa, are constrained by access to markets, while inputs, such as fertilisers and seed, are expensive. With lack of irrigation water, infrastructure and investments, and low availability of micro-finance combined with dependency on few multinational suppliers, crop production is unlikely to increase in those regions where it is needed the most, unless major policy changes and investments take place. These constraints are further compounded by conflicts and corruption.

Agricultural prices are forecast to remain well above the levels of the first half of 2001-10. In addition, a production short of demand, a greater geographical inequity in production and demand, combined with possibly more extreme weather and subsequent speculation in food markets, could generate much greater price volatility than before.

Food Availability:

The availability of food within a specific country can be guaranteed in two ways: either by food production in the country itself or by trade.

Increase in productivity can come about by using innovative soil and moisture conservation techniques, e.g., the double plantation techniques adopted by farmers in the Mekong plains of Indo- China and the elaborate terraces and irrigation systems of Bali and South China.

The Green Revolution helped to increase production in cereals in some regions, but the technologies involved had their own limitations.

Developments on the demand side require increase in production in those regions with the highest economic growth or population increase. The majority of these regions will be in emerging economies in Africa and Asia. Nowadays, Africa is especially dependent on food imports. Food production in this region is lagging behind due to limited research investments and the problems for farmers to use the appropriate inputs in their production process.

The world regions are sharply divided in terms of their capacity to use science in promoting agricultural productivity in order to achieve food security and reduce poverty and hunger.

Productivity has risen in many developing countries, mainly as a result of investment in agricultural R&D combined with improved human capital and rural infrastructure. In Africa, the levels of productivity are much lower and their growth has also been slower than in Asia.

One of the major options for significantly raising crop production is increasing the use of mineral fertilisers. The Africa Fertiliser Summit 2006 concluded that the use of fertilisers should be increased to a level of at least 50 kg/ha by 2015.

A major challenge is to find ways of making fertiliser available to smallholders at affordable prices. There is also a need for holistic approaches to soil fertility management that embraces the full range of driving factors and consequences of soil degradation. This would include the integration of mineral and organic sources of nutrients, thereby using locally available sources of inputs and maximising their use efficiency, while reducing dependency upon prices of commercial fertilisers and pesticides. The use of perennials, intercropping and agroforestry systems, such as the use of nitrogen fixating leguminous trees, are ways to increase nutrient availability, and enhance water availability and pest control, in a more sustainable manner.

After 1980, growth in expansion of irrigated area decreased and it is assumed this trend will continue in the near future. One of the reasons is that the areas most suitable for irrigation are already used, leading to higher construction costs in new areas. Current irrigation systems could be improved by investing in water control and delivery, automation, monitoring and staff training.

In most African regions, the major challenge is not the lack of water, but unpredictable and highly variable rainfall patterns with occurrences of dry spells every two years causing crop failure. This high uncertainty and variability influence the risk adverse behaviour of smallholder farmers. Rarely are investments made in soil management and fertility, crop varieties, tillage practices and even labour in order to avoid losses in case of total crop failure.

Managing the extreme rainfall variability over time and space can provide supplemental irrigation water to overcome dry periods and prevent crop failure. In combination with improved soil, this should reduce the risk of total crop failure and enhance the profitability of investments in crop management, for example, fertilisers, labour and crop varieties. Increasing crop canopy coverage reduces evapotranspiration from the soil, improving soil moisture and the provision of water for the crop.

This option has become more and more important with increasing transport possibilities and storing capacities and the growing challenges faced by some countries in their domestic production, including because of limitations in available cropland. International trade in agricultural products has expanded more rapidly than global agricultural GDP.

An increasing share of global agricultural exports originates from developed countries. The EU countries account for most of the global growth.

A large portion of this increase is accounted for by intra-EU trade.

Another perspective of trade is the purchase of land abroad for food production. Responding to recent food crises, a number of countries have started to purchase land abroad for cultivation of – crops needed to support domestic demand.

This is seen as a long-term solution to the high prices of agriculture commodities and increasing demand for Agroforestry products such as palm oil. Among the most active countries owning, leasing or concessioning farmland overseas are China, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and United Arab Emirates. The total area of overseas farmland in different countries was estimated at 5.7 million ha at the end of 2008 or 0.4 per cent of the global cropland area.

Food Supply Stability:

A major reason for instability in food supply is high fluctuation in food prices (price volatility). Volatile prices lead to poor investment strategies of producers and immediate impacts on consumers, especially in developing countries where consumers spend a large share of their income on food. Another source of instability is conflicts, which increase food supply risks.

Trade policies that limit market access, increase the volatility of commodity prices, unfairly subsidise developed country exports and constrain the trade policy flexibility of the developing world affect the stability and security as well as overall economic well-being of developing countries.

A quarter of the world’s governments implemented some export restrictions in the period of high prices in 2007-08 to ensure domestic food security. The impacts of these restrictions varied from panic-buying to the cultivation of smaller areas due to high input costs and the expectation of low product prices. These restrictions even increased price volatility of food products on the world market, thereby decreasing the food security of other countries.

With open markets, developing countries are very vulnerable to fluctuations in global food supply and prices and temporary protection of their own agricultural markets is promoted for these countries.

Conflicts greatly increase the risk of food supply instability. Countries in conflict and post-conflict situations tend to be food insecure, with more than 20 per cent of the population, and in many cases far more, lacking access to adequate food.

Accessibility to Food:

Accessibility to food refers not only to physical access but also affordability. Access to markets includes transportation of commodities and its costs and the transmission of price developments to producers. Poor transmission of price incentives to producers results in increasing the gap between consumers and producers especially as diets change.

As urbanisation increases, large urban markets are created and with this the scope of the establishment of big supermarket chains increases. This has implications for the entire food supply chain. Supermarkets have become an emerging force in South Asia, particularly in urban India, since the mid-1990s. The growth and power of international food corporations affect the opportunities of small agricultural producers in developing countries. Market entry is often barred to the majority of producers because of stringent safety and quality standards of food retailers.

Trade and urbanisation affect consumer preferences. The rapid diversification of the urban diet cannot be met by the traditional food supply chain in the hinterland of many developing countries. Consequently, importing food to satisfy the changing food demand could be relatively easier and less costly than acquiring the same food from domestic sources.

In Asia, traditional rice-eating societies are consuming increasing quantities of wheat in the form of bread, cakes, pastry and other products. Countries that traditionally [imported rice for meeting food shortfalls may now be shifting towards increasing levels of Wheat imports. This trend is also evident in the import of other temperate products like vegetables, milk and dairy products and temperate fruit. The overall result is that we are beginning to see a homogenisation of food tastes across the globe, but with regional variations.

Poor connections between urban and rural areas hinder price transmissions towards local markets, broadening the gap between urban demand and rural production in increasing demand for traditional products or for product diversification. The lack of access to markets is most evident in Africa, although large parts of Latin America and Asia are also experiencing long transport hours to reach markets. Consequently, domestic prices do not always follow international prices as an FAO report pointed out in 2006.

The periods of rising real prices were generally associated with real exchange rate devaluations. Relaxation of government controls over prices and market systems also led to gains in producer prices in some cases. In other instances, import liberalisation appears to have contributed to a decline in the real domestic prices of some commodities. Consequently, global shortages of food and feed that lead to global price increases are not followed by production increases at the local level.

Future World Food Prices:

Accessibility to food is also determined by the long-term trend in food prices (which is a different issue from price volatility).

In 2007-08 food prices were driven by a combination of rising fuel costs, production of biofuels, and unfavourable weather conditions, with trade restrictions boosting upward price pressures.

As the cost, and subsequent use, of fertiliser is strongly correlated with price, a potentially higher oil price would lower the use of fertiliser or further increase the food price.

Fuel price is one of the main determining factors for fisheries. Rising energy prices have a strong impact on capture as well as aquaculture (for the production and transport of fish feed) and lead to higher costs during the processing, transport (particularly air freight) and distribution of fish products. Small-scale fisheries, which depend on outboard motors and small diesel engines, have especially suffered from the spiralling rise in fuel prices.

While a higher oil price increases demand for biofuels, there is a catch: the agricultural commodities used nowadays or biofuels were previously used for feed and fodder; in the circumstances, demand for agricultural commodities as for factor inputs increases in this case. The overall decline in food prices is not expected to be so marked because of biofuel use.

Most of the quantitative and qualitative indicators of food security at the household level are linked to the poverty issue. As Amartya Sen (1981) points out, the poor do not have adequate means or entitlements to secure food, even when food is locally or regionally available. It is interesting to note that merely increase in income does not necessarily ensure improved nutritional status. Access to gainful employment, suitable technologies and other productive resources are important factors influencing undernutrition.

Though, overall, soaring food prices are blamed for their impacts on human vulnerability, there are two sides to this picture. Increasing food prices do have a positive effect on net food-selling households (FAO, 2008), augmenting their incomes and allowing more possibilities for farmers to afford investments in production inputs.

This underlines the need to minimise short-term price volatility and stimulate slow increases in long- term food prices, in order to enhance investments in the agricultural system and bridge the gap between developed and developing countries as well as between rural food producing and urban food consuming regions. Ideally, these developments should take environmental aspects into account to achieve sustainable agricultural systems that will meet the food demand of all the world citizens and eradicate hunger.

However, increasing yield and food supply without simply continuing the conventional expansion of cropland and rangeland and use of fertilisers and pesticides—at the cost of biodiversity and future generations—will require major investments and implementation of food energy considerations in the entire food production and consumption chain.

Utilisation, Quality and Safety:

As already mentioned in discussing the problems of nutrition patterns, much requires to be accomplished to acquire equitability in this regard.

Apart from quantitative aspect, qualitative aspects of diet such as consumption habits and nutritional needs also affect food security. In the absence of adequate attention to qualitative aspects of food, the ability of the individual to sustain the benefits of development gets affected.

A number of more novel matters will need to be dealt with, such as:

(i) The positive and negative impacts on non-communicable diseases of intensive production systems, not only in terms of health (e.g. nitrite in vegetables, heavy metals in irrigation water and manure, pesticide use), but also in terms of dietary quality (e.g. leaner meats in intensive poultry production);

(ii) The effects of longer food chains, in particular of longer storage and transport routes, such as the higher risk of -deterioration (even if most of this may be bacterial and hence not a factor in chronic diseases), and the use and misuse of conserving agents and contaminants; and

(iii) The effects of changes in varietal composition and diversity of consumption patterns, for example, the loss of traditional crop varieties and, perhaps even more significantly, the declining use of foods from “wild” sources.

Improving Food Security:

In the short term, the volatile prices can be decreased by price regulation and creation of larger cereal stocks to buffer the tight markets of food commodities and the subsequent risks of speculation. Safety nets need to be provided to alleviate impacts of rising prices and food shortage. Subsidies on agricultural commodities and inputs that are aggravating the food crisis need to be reduced/removed and investments made to shift to sustainable food systems and food energy efficiency.

In the middle term, efforts should be made to develop alternatives for feeds for animals and fish. Our ability to change the feed destined for livestock and aquaculture is probably greater than that of changing people’s food choice habits, which are not as easily controlled. Finding alternative feed sources provides a huge potential for increasing the availability of cereal for human consumption.

For other feed sources to become a sustainable alternative to the current use of cereals, their exploitation must not be resource- demanding. This poses a big challenge, since most of the easily available feed sources have already been fully exploited, although some alternatives still exist.

By using discards, waste and other post-harvest losses, the supply of animal and fish feed can be increased and be sustained without expanding current production, simply by increasing energy efficiency and conservation in the food supply chain.

There has been little focus on salvaging food already harvested or produced. An important question centers around the percentage of food discarded or lost during harvesting, processing, transport and distribution as well as at the point of final sale to consumers. Reducing such losses is likely to be among the most sustainable alternatives for increasing food availability.

Discarded fish from’ marine fisheries is the single largest proportion lost of any food source produced or harvested from the wild. The proportion is particularly high for shrimp bottom trawl fisheries. If sustainable, the amount of fish currently discarded at sea could alone sustain more than a 50 per cent increase in aquaculture production. However, many of these species could also be used directly for human consumption.

The potential to use unexploited food waste as alternative sources of feed is also considerable for agricultural products.

Food losses in the field (between planting and harvesting) could be as high as 20-40 per cent of the potential harvest in developing countries due to pests and pathogens. Postharvest losses vary greatly among commodities and production areas and seasons.

Substantial losses and wastage occur during retail and consumption due to product deterioration as well as to discarding of excess perishable products and unconsumed food. Food waste represents a major potential, especially for use as animal feed, which, in turn, could release the use of cereals in animal feed for human consumption.

Recovering energy from agricultural wastes is becoming increasingly feasible at the industrial production level; investments in technology enhancement of existing systems and innovation in new waste management systems is called for to support this expanding green economy.

Farmers need to be supported in developing diversified and resilient eco-agricultural systems. This includes management of extreme rainfall and use of inter-cropping to minimise dependency on external inputs like artificial fertilisers, pesticides and over irrigation.

Increased trade and improved market access can be achieved by improving infrastructure and reducing barriers to trade.

In the long term, awareness needs to be created about the pressures of increasing population growth and consumption patterns on sustainable functioning of the ecosystem. Alternative sources of food have to be explored and developed.

Related Articles:

  • Food Problems: Notes on the Causes of Food Problems
  • Food Security in India: Definition, Availability of Food Grains and Other Details

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Food Security in the United States: The Major Lapses of the Conventional Food Systems Essay

Introduction, the meaning of food security, food insecurity in the american perspective, major problems associated with the traditional food systems, american communities affected by food insecurity, my role in the food system.

Even as commercial and peasant farmers continue to increase pressure on farmland for the production of non-food crops, food security continues to dominate major global forums. Global farmlands are gradually losing their historical fertility, food-processing companies are increasingly becoming unstable, and food galleries are becoming emptier.

The issue of food security is a universal dilemma that has struck several nations across the world, even as climate continues to be unpredictable, and the events of hunger and drought continue to occur repeatedly. The intent of this essay is to give an in-depth meaning of food security, the perspective of food insecurity to the case of the United States, the major lapses of the conventional food systems, and the American communities that frequently remain affected by food insecurity.

Food security may refer to the sufficient accessibility of nutritious, safe, and religiously and culturally appropriate food to all the people across the world. Food security may also depict a situation whereby all communities of the world, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, political affiliations, and socioeconomic statuses, rightfully enjoy unlimited access to reliable and affordable food that is nutritious and safe for human consumption.

Food security is also a state whereby all the people across the continents are capable of accessing food that is sufficient in quantity and quality, depending on their daily nutritional demands. The concept of quantity applies because food has to be adequate to feed the populations sufficiently. The concept of quality applies because food has to be safe and nutritious.

Despite the United States seeking equitable access to economic food resources and physical food resources, food insecurity in the American perspective comes in a disparity manner. American food insecurity occurs when the vulnerable groups of people in different communities are suffering an acute shortage of ability to have an economic and physical access to safe, nutritious, and religiously and culturally appropriate food.

Food insecurity in America is eminent when children are facing a devastating shortage of adequate food that is nutritious and safe for human consumption. Food insecurity in the United States also becomes eminent when the elderly, the ethnic minority, and the rural people, lack access to food of the right quality and quantity, due to their mobility conditions and other socioeconomic situations.

The foremost problem associated with the American conventional food systems is lack of food maintenance. The traditional American food systems lacked proper food maintenance because they lacked proper food harvesting techniques, they lacked proper food preservation methods, and they lacked ample storage infrastructures.

Although the traditional food systems are more nutritious and safer compared to the foods produced through the contemporary technologies and stored through the modern industrial systems, they lack their sustained value because of poor preservation. Since the modern industrial food systems replaced the traditional methods of producing and preserving food, food security has improved tremendously across the continents. The traditionally gathered foods have never proven significant in dealing with the modern food insecurity. The replacement of traditional galleries with industries is worthwhile.

Although hunger is a universal problem that affects all the global communities, food insecurity in United States affects the minority ethnicities unfairly. The most affected minority communities are those that make up the biggest minority groups. The ethnic communities of America that often face food insecurity are large minority communities.

These communities involve the African American ethnic communities and the Latino minority population, which report constant events of food shortages. In the American demographic statistics and history, the two minority communities have remained disproportionately affected by poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment misfortunes. These two ethnic communities of the United States live in the rural, the suburban, and the underdeveloped cities of America. These are areas, where racial poverty, lack of education and unemployment, are major social concerns.

My major role in the modern food system is to ensure appropriate use of the available food in the markets, at home, and within the institution. People must use the right amount of food required by the body tissues to enable the body systems work properly. I must practice suitable cooking. Suitable cooking means cooking the right amount of food, without wasting any food amount that may deem important somewhere else in the world.

My other significant role in the food system is ensuring an appropriate budgeting of food to avoid unnecessary food decay, which literally leads to loss of food. Lastly, my other role in the food security is sensitizing the local communities about the appropriate use of farmland.

Food insecurity is becoming a growing concern in many nations. Food security primarily means an unlimited economic and physical access to food that is nutritious, safe, and culturally and religiously acceptable. Although hunger is a universal problem that affects many people across the world, the situation may sometimes be disproportionate in some parts of the world, depending on several socioeconomic dynamics.

In America, poverty, unemployment, and old age are some of the variables that determine access to food, as well as define the situation of food insecurity in the nation. In America, there is food insecurity when the elderly, the ethnic minority, the children, and the rural and suburban populations report considerable incidences of hunger. Such situations make the issue of food insecurity a complex phenomenon.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 15). Food Security in the United States: The Major Lapses of the Conventional Food Systems. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-security-in-the-united-states/

"Food Security in the United States: The Major Lapses of the Conventional Food Systems." IvyPanda , 15 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/food-security-in-the-united-states/.

IvyPanda . (2020) 'Food Security in the United States: The Major Lapses of the Conventional Food Systems'. 15 May.

IvyPanda . 2020. "Food Security in the United States: The Major Lapses of the Conventional Food Systems." May 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-security-in-the-united-states/.

1. IvyPanda . "Food Security in the United States: The Major Lapses of the Conventional Food Systems." May 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-security-in-the-united-states/.


IvyPanda . "Food Security in the United States: The Major Lapses of the Conventional Food Systems." May 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/food-security-in-the-united-states/.

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Food Insecurity and Child Development: A State-of-the-Art Review

Danielle gallegos.

1 School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, QLD 4059, Australia

2 Woolworths Centre for Childhood Nutrition Research, Queensland University of Technology, South Brisbane, QLD 4151, Australia

Areana Eivers

3 School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, QLD 4059, Australia; [email protected]

Peter Sondergeld

4 Library Services, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, QLD 4059, Australia; [email protected]

Cassandra Pattinson

5 Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR), The University of Queensland, Indooroopilly, QLD 4068, Australia; [email protected]

Associated Data

Converging research indicates that household food insecurity impedes children from reaching their full physical, cognitive, and psychosocial potential. This state-of-the-art review examines the last decade of research to: (1) describe the impact of the severity and persistence of food insecurity on child development; (2) use a socio-ecological framework to examine significant proximal and distal factors which may interplay; and (3) outline directions for future research. We conducted a systematic review of six databases of published papers from 2011 to June 2021. The search was limited to high-income countries and children aged from birth to 12 years. From 17,457 papers, 17 studies were included in the final review. Transitioning between food security and food insecurity had a significant and lasting effect on academic/cognitive function and behavior (i.e., externalizing), however less clear relationships were seen for psychosocial outcomes and other behaviors examined (i.e., internalizing). There was significant variation in the measurement and thresholds used to define both food insecurity and child development outcomes. Subsequently, comparisons across studies are difficult. Several future recommendations, including incorporation of socio-ecological factors, is provided. In conclusion, this review supports the link between food insecurity and sub-optimal child development; however, there is an imperative to improve and extend current understanding to ameliorate the causes of food insecurity.

1. Introduction

Food and nutrition security is a fundamental human right, and exists “when all people at all times have physical, social, and economic access to food, which is safe and consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy and active life” [ 1 ]. It is estimated that nearly two billion people or over one-quarter of the world’s population do not have regular access to a nutritious and sufficient food supply [ 2 ]. While prevalence is much lower in high income countries, it remains a persistent and ongoing issue affecting between 8–11% of the populations in countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, and the United States of America (US) [ 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 ]. The highest prevalence rates in these countries are seen among those living with disadvantage or marginalization [ 3 , 7 ]. Food insecurity has been identified as a powerful stressor for families, with significant negative implications for child health and development; these include impacts on physical, social, cognitive, and behavioral development, independent of poverty [ 8 , 9 ]. As this problem is ongoing and immediate, there is an urgent need to explore the impact of food insecurity on child development, to inform strategies that minimize and alleviate its risks.

To date, three systematic reviews and one meta-analysis have been published examining the associations between household food insecurity and child development [ 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 ]. All conclude that food insecurity, independent of economic circumstances, is associated with child development outcomes (cognitive, behavioral, and socio-emotional). The proposed pathways of influence of food insecurity on child development include interactions with maternal mental health, parenting behavior, and household psycho-social stress. None of the previous reviews have focused, however, on the impact of food insecurity severity (from worrying about to running out of food) and persistence over time. The current review is unique in that it specifically investigates the impact of food insecurity severity and persistence on child development outcomes using the socio-ecological model as a guiding framework [ 12 ]. This model posits that child development is a dynamic process arising from complex interactions across multiple levels of influence (individual, family, institutions, community, society) that are proximal and distal to the child. The overlaying of this framework will assist in identifying not only risk factors but also the protective resources that can be drawn on to strengthen optimal child development [ 13 , 14 ].

As such, this state-of-the-art review will outline the past decade of research to: (1) examine the impact of the severity and persistence of food insecurity on child social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral development; (2) utilize the socio-ecological model as a framework to examine the factors which may be protective or exacerbate the effect of food insecurity on child development; and (3) outline key directions for future research on food insecurity.

Definition and Classification of Food Insecurity

Food and nutrition security is underpinned by six dimensions: (1) availability—food of sufficient nutritional quality is able to be grown, bartered or purchased; (2) accessibility—social, economic and physical access to food; (3) utilization—food is able to be used physiologically and there are resources to transform food into meals; (4) stability—that all these elements are stable irrespective of household, civil unrest, or weather conditions; (5) agency—people can choose what they eat and how it is produced with freedom and dignity; and (6) sustainability—indicating long term measures that protect human and environmental health [ 15 ]. Food insecurity occurs when one or more of these dimensions are compromised. Food insecurity experiences are most commonly measured at the household level and generally reported by the primary caregiver.

One challenge to the conceptualization of food insecurity is that it may differ in both persistence and severity, with potentially differing consequences for child development. A reason for this variability is that economic disadvantage is dynamic. Households may move in and out of poverty, or at times have greater access to supporting resources than at other times. The chronicity and cyclical nature of disadvantage are, thus, potential moderators of long-term child development outcomes [ 16 , 17 ] and are therefore, key variables of interest within the current review.

2. Materials and Methods

The Cochrane Collaboration [ 18 ] and Centre for Reviews and Dissemination [ 19 ] guidelines were used in the development of this review. We report findings per the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) Statement [ 20 ]. We searched MEDLINE (via EBSCOhost), ProQuest (Education; Health & Medical; Nursing & Allied Health; Psychology; Social Science; Dissertations & Theses Global), PsycINFO (via EBSCOhost), SCOPUS, and Web of Science Core Collection for empirical research on links between food insecurity and child development from 2011 to June 2021. We included only full text, English language, peer reviewed publications. Table 1 summarizes eligibility criteria.

Inclusion and exclusion criteria.

We searched the Cochrane Library to identify primary studies in relevant systematic reviews. No additional records were identified via hand-searching the reference lists of records meeting eligibility criteria. We adapted search terms and search syntax for each database (see Supplementary Table S1 ). Papers were limited to ones published within the last decade (2011–2021) and to those including children from birth to 12 years only.

Risk of Bias

From 17,457 studies screened, 17 met the final inclusion and exclusion criteria. Two assessors determined the inclusion of papers, extracted data and evaluated the quality of each of the studies using the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies [ 21 ]. This tool assesses quality across sixteen criteria. Any conflicts were discussed and finalized by the group. Just under half (47%) of the studies were rated as being of good quality, with the remaining papers rated as fair (see Supplementary Table S2 ). Figure 1 depicts the study selection process.

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PRISMA diagram of search, adapted from [ 20 ].

3.1. Measurement of Food Insecurity Severity and Persistence

All but two of the 17 studies identified used the United States-Household Food Security Survey Module (US-HFSSM; Table 2 ). This tool distinguishes between households which are food secure and food insecure. Households are categorized as food secure if they have high food security (no anxiety, consistently able to access food) or marginal food security (some anxiety about accessing adequate food but no changes to food intake). Households are categorized as food insecure if they have low food security (where the quality of food is compromised but quantity and eating patterns are not altered); or very low food security (where some or all members of the household had disrupted eating patterns and this reduced the quantity of food consumed) [ 22 ]. In addition to being able to determine a food security status, the tool can provide a continuous variable where higher scores are indicative of more severe food insecurity. Furthermore, the US-HFSSM can be used to distinguish between food security among adults (the first ten questions) and among children (the remaining eight questions) in a household. There are difficulties, however, when child food insecurity is measured in relation to households as measures do not necessarily capture food security status for all children in the household, with younger children often protected by adults over older children [ 23 ].

Food security measurement tools and characteristics used in identified studies.

Y = Yes; N = No. FS = Food secure; MFS = Marginal food security; FI = Food Insecure; LFS = Low Food Security; VLFS = Very Low Food Security; T1 Time 1; T2 Time 2. * FS as per USDA guidelines, i.e., includes <3 affirmative responses unless otherwise stated (FS + MFS); FI ≥ 3 responses (LFS + VLFS). # Responses to 10 question adult module to give household FS status; Responses to eight-question child module to give child food security status within household.

Fifteen (82%) studies reviewed here used the 18-item or 10-item US-HFSSM measure. Of the remaining two studies, one study used the two-question screener from the US-HFSSM [ 24 ] and the other used a four question screener that had been previously validated [ 25 ]. All studies categorized households as food secure or food insecure; three studies also examined food insecurity as a continuous variable [ 26 , 27 , 28 ].

Nine (53%) of the 17 studies reviewed, dichotomized the HFSSM scale into food secure versus food insecure, thereby not distinguishing severity of household food insecurity. One of these studies included those with marginal food security in the food insecure category [ 29 ], which is at odds with recommended practice [ 22 ] and makes comparisons between studies problematic. Six studies (35%) did distinguish food insecurity severity. Four of these studies did so by comparing the trichotomous outcomes of food secure, marginally food secure, and food insecure [ 24 , 26 , 30 , 31 ]. This may be important as there is converging recognition that parental anxiety or worry about food, regardless of objective food security status, may impact on child development through indirect mechanisms such as parenting and home environment [ 30 ]. The remaining two studies distinguished severity within the food insecure category, that is, between low and very low food security [ 26 , 31 ]. Nagata and colleagues [ 26 ] examined continuous and categorical values of food insecure, with food secure versus marginally food secure, low, and very low food security. Given that very low food security is associated with compromised quality and quantity of food, there are physiological implications for child development with this level of food insecurity [ 32 , 33 ]. In high income countries the number of households with very low food security is often low (between 3–5%) [ 31 ] and, is frequently not able to be analyzed separately.

Two studies used the US-HFSSM to distinguish the experiences of food insecurity for adults from that of children in the same household [ 27 , 34 ]. Given that children can be protected in food insecure households by adults, determining whether children are experiencing food insecurity (albeit based on caregiver report) provides a more nuanced understanding of the impact of food insecurity on child development.

Persistence/trajectory of food insecurity was measured in seven (41%) longitudinal studies [ 25 , 28 , 29 , 31 , 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 ]. These papers highlight a growing understanding of the impact of cycling through transient phases of food insecurity over time, as well as the impact of persistent food insecurity at different stages of child development. Transient phases of food insecurity may indicate precarious or chaotic environments (characterized by uncertainty, frequent moving, and lack of routines), which have been linked to poorer child development outcomes [ 39 , 40 ]. Only one study examined the combined impact of severity (food secure, marginal food security and food insecurity, which included both low and very low food security) and persistence across two time points of development ( Table 2 ) [ 37 ].

3.2. Measurement of Child Development

In line with the recent review by de Oliveira et al. [ 9 ], the current review found that the measures used to assess child development (see Table 3 ) varied widely across studies and included a mix of non-standardized single items, summed multiple single-item responses (to get an overall functioning score), and standardized tests [ 9 ]. No study provided a rationale for using a measure, even when other validated and more commonly used scales existed. This is problematic as it limits comparability across studies and cohorts. More consistent measures and use of standardized measures are vital as is ensuring context generalizability outside the US. It should be noted that 10 (60%) of the reviewed papers were based on two large cohorts from the United States—the Early Childhood Longitudinal (ECLS) Birth and Kindergarten cohorts and the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS)—where the choice of tools was pre-selected.

Summary of food security and child development outcomes.

Note: FI: Food Insecure; FS: Food Secure; NR: Not Reported; PEDS: Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status; ↑—increased; ↓—decreased. Studies: ECLS-B and –K: Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth and Kindergarten cohorts; FFCW: Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study; QLSCD: Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. # Control variables are presented in order of appearance in the respective papers, for ease and readability we have tried to present a selection of the key variables controlled for in the analysis. The number of additional variables that were controlled in the analyses are presented with the “+” symbol. ^ Baseline Cohort reported in this instance. a This table only reports the overall social skills score, please refer to the original manuscript for full report of findings. b The subject-specific model represents the most conservative estimate of effects, please refer to the original manuscript for full report of findings. * anxiety and depression were classified under behavior as they are often categorized under internalizing behavior.

3.3. Food Insecurity and Child Development Outcomes

Academic/cognitive outcomes: Seven studies investigated the association between food insecurity and academic outcomes/cognitive functioning ( Table 3 ). None investigated the impact of severity of food insecurity on cognitive outcomes; however, five of the seven studies examined the impact of food insecurity persistence.

There were two cross-sectional investigations with mixed findings. Hobbs and King [ 42 ] indicated that, compared to children in FS households, children in food insecure households had lower scores on measures of both vocabulary and letter-word recognition, but these effects were different for children in different ability percentiles ( Table 3 ). Huang and colleagues [ 44 ] reported that, after adjusting for immigrant protective and risk factors, there were no significant differences in reading or math scores according to food security status.

Of the five longitudinal studies, four reported a significant negative effect of food insecurity persistence on academic/cognitive outcomes. Two studies [ 29 , 31 ] found that both transient and persistent food insecurity were associated with decreased approach to learning [ 29 , 31 ] and reading and math scores [ 31 ]. An additional study reported that persistent, but not transient food insecurity was associated with decreases in reading scores [ 38 ]. Similarly, Grineski et al. found that only children in households who transitioned from marginally food secure to food insecure (deepening food insecurity) had lower math and working memory scores [ 37 ]. Finally, Kimbro and Denney [ 36 ] found no associations between either persistent or transient food insecurity and academic outcomes (reading, math or science) across two time points.

Behavior: The effect of food insecurity on behavior (externalizing, internalizing, self-control, self-regulation, general conduct) has had considerable attention over the past decade with 12 studies specifically examining this association. Five were cross-sectional and eight were longitudinal ( Table 3 ). Three of four cross-sectional studies reported positive associations between food insecurity and behavioral problems [ 24 , 43 , 44 ]. Hobbs and King [ 42 ] reported that this effect was greatest in those children who had higher behavioral problems to begin with. Encinger and colleagues [ 24 ] found that marginal FS was indirectly associated with poorer self-regulation, mediated through parenting stress. Nagata et al., however, found no direct association between food insecurity and behavior problems [ 26 ].

Eight papers examined the effect of food insecurity persistence on behavior and the results were mixed. Four papers examined self-control, all finding significant negative associations with food insecurity [ 28 , 29 , 31 , 38 ]. The association was particularly marked where there were transitions into and out of food insecurity, indicating that some level of uncertainty regarding food security within a household may impact child self-control.

Four of the eight longitudinal studies examined the association between internalizing and externalizing behaviors and food insecurity persistence [ 27 , 31 , 37 , 38 ]; one study investigated externalizing behavior outcomes only [ 29 ]. Two papers reported that emerging food insecurity (food secure at Time 1 moving to food insecure at Time 2) was associated with increased externalizing behavior [ 36 , 37 ]; this finding was replicated by Huang et al. [ 35 ], but for boys only. Grineski et al. [ 37 ] reported a significant positive association between persistent food insecurity (food insecurity at both time points) and externalizing behaviors. Only two studies found an association between food insecurity persistence and internalizing behaviors [ 35 , 36 ]. Kimbro and Denney indicated a significant positive effect for persistent food insecurity on internalizing behaviors; Huang et al. found a significant positive association between emerging food insecurity and internalizing behavior but, again, for boys only [ 36 ]. King [ 27 ] found increasing internalizing behaviors in children in households where adults only were food insecure; and increasing externalizing behaviors in children in households where both adults and children were food insecure.

Among the remaining longitudinal studies, a study by Johnson and Markowitz [ 31 ] found that food insecurity at any earlier time point was associated with increased hyperactivity and conduct problems in kindergarten. Another study, by Melichor and colleagues, found no longitudinal association between food insecure and hyperactivity and inattention, aggression, or depression [ 25 ].

Taken together, these results indicate that food insecurity persistence may differentially affect behavior in children when experienced at different times in their development. Shorter and more transient forms of food insecurity were associated with increased externalizing behaviors, while more persistent food insecurity was associated with internalizing and self-control behavioral issues. Results are mixed, however, and further analysis is needed to disentangle these effects.

Development: Three cross-sectional studies examined food insecurity and developmental concerns ( Table 3 ): all reported that food insecurity was associated with increased developmental concerns reported by parents using the Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS). These studies each controlled for critical child (birth weight, feeding) and caregiver characteristics (age, education, employment, and marital status) [ 30 , 36 , 42 ]. Both marginal food security and food insecurity were associated with increased developmental concerns [ 45 ].

Psychosocial: Four studies assessed the associations between food insecurity and psychosocial outcomes using a variety of measures, with few recognized and standardized measures being used. Potentially due to this, the patterns of these findings were mixed. Two studies were cross-sectional and two were longitudinal. In a cross-sectional analysis, Nagata et al. [ 26 ] reported that after adjusting for child, maternal, and household factors, on all five of the Child Behavior Checklist subdomains, experiencing food insecurity was only significantly associated with declines in pervasive development. Cook et al. [ 45 ] found that food insecurity but not marginal food security was associated with decreased odds of the child having “well child” status compared with children in food secure households.

Of the two longitudinal studies, Howard [ 29 ] reported that children who transitioned from food insecure in the first grade to food secure in third grade had lower social skills scores, an effect that was significant overall, in boys, and trending towards significant in girls. However, it is noted that there were no other significant associations between social skill scores and food insecurity persistence found, including in those who became food insecure in third grade or those experiencing any food insecurity by fifth grade. Grineski and colleagues [ 37 ] found that remitting marginal food insecure (marginally food secure at kindergarten and moved to food insecure at grade 1) and persisting marginal food security (marginally food secure at both kindergarten and grade 1) were associated with declines in teacher-rated interpersonal skills, even after controlling for child and school factors. In combination, these longitudinal studies suggest that transitioning between food security and food insecurity matters, especially in the early years. Furthermore, the results from Grineski et al. [ 37 ] suggest that the effects of even marginal food security may impact on children’s interpersonal skills and development, even after food insecurity is no longer a significant household problem.

4. Discussion

4.1. mechanisms of how food insecurity impacts on child development.

Food insecurity has been linked to adverse child development through multiple mechanisms, including decreased quantity of food, compromised food quality, and heightened stress and anxiety associated with finding food [ 46 , 47 ]. A decrease in quantity of food, where children skip or have smaller meals, or potentially changes in the quality of food provided (that is, cheaper nutrient-poor, energy-dense alternatives over nutritious meals) may result in inadequate consumption of required nutrients. For instance, sub-optimal energy, protein, and micronutrient intake in the first five years of life can limit neural plasticity and lead to impaired cognitive functioning [ 48 , 49 ]. Finally, food insecurity may influence child development through exposure to increased stress and anxiety. For some families, maintaining the household (i.e., energy, water, housing) brings considerable stress and anxiety. Heightened levels of stress and anxiety can impact children and parents physiologically (via triggering the stress-related hypothalamic–pituitary axis), psychologically and socially; including affecting parenting practices and subsequently, child development [ 47 ]. As household time and resources are increasingly spent managing food access and availability, the emotional and financial support to facilitate child development may decrease [ 30 ]; for example, observed through less money to spend on extracurricular learning/interactive environments. A clear finding of the studies reviewed, was that there are a multitude of variables which are associated with food insecurity and child development outcomes which may protect or amplify the effects of food insecurity. Moreover, food insecurity experienced as worry, or the compromising of food quality and quantity for adults and/or children in a household, has an impact on child development. Child development is also impacted if food insecurity exists for shorter transient or for longer more persistent periods of time. As such, additional factors may need to be considered in exploring the association between food insecurity and child development and using a socio-ecological approach may be key for improving future research.

4.2. Applying a Socio-Ecological Lens

When examining the effect of food insecurity on child development it is important to consider multiple risk and protective factors; the socio-ecological model allows us to do this across systems. As part of this review, we categorized the factors taken into consideration by each of the studies as they pertained to each of the systems ( Table 3 and Figure 2 ).

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-18-08990-g002.jpg

Socio-ecological proximal and distal factors impacting food security and child development (author generated).

The effects of food insecurity on child development are likely mediated by individual and proximal factors such as the quality of home and school environments, caregiver-child relationships and interactions, parental mental health, and individual differences in biology and temperament [ 46 , 47 , 50 ]. For example, in this review the important role that maternal mental health, parenting stress and parenting practices played in enhancing or reducing the risks of food insecurity for children’s development was evident [ 46 , 47 , 50 ]. This was especially apparent for behavioral outcomes. The impact of other caregivers’ mental health [ 50 ] and exposure to broader caregiving systems (grandparents and other kinship networks) beyond the immediate home environment tended not to considered. These factors are increasingly recognized as influential on child development outcomes [ 14 ].

Distal factors of influence identified included access to social support (borrow money, find emergency childcare) [ 27 ] and urbanicity [ 31 ]. A number of papers considered societal level factors such as utilizing a food safety net (school meals, SNAP, WIC) [ 26 , 27 , 36 ], eligibility for social protection measures (TANF, low income energy assistance) [ 28 , 30 , 36 ], and access to health insurance, which is a pertinent issue in the USA due to the high cost of health care [ 34 , 44 ].

Emerging research in food insecurity is exploring other distal factors that impact on the ability of children to reach their full potential. Recent research has explored broader societal issues, such as lack of social cohesion [ 51 , 52 ], racism [ 53 , 54 ], violence [ 55 ], and neighborhood safety [ 56 ], and how these impact food insecurity. The links between these factors and child development are well established (see for example [ 17 , 57 , 58 , 59 , 60 , 61 ]). The next step is exploring the intersection between food insecurity, child development and these concepts.

The socio-ecological framework indicates that children do not operate solely within microenvironments bounded by the household but are influenced by both proximal and distal factors including the broader policy environments influencing food access, availability, affordability, and utilization. Exploring household, family, school, and community environments together will allow a more nuanced picture of the relationship between food insecurity and child development outcomes. This picture will then be able to inform public policy strategies that seek to alleviate poverty and improve the environmental conditions (for example: home, school, community) that contribute to food security, thus influencing child development.

4.3. Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

The current ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted several salient issues regarding food security and child development outcomes. One pertinent issue raised is the fragility of the food systems including food relief and the financial security on which families are dependent. Lockdowns and ongoing uncertainty have increased levels of family stress. This is due to increased demands of balancing childcare/home-schooling/work, financial instability, decreased access to food, and increased incidence of domestic violence [ 62 , 63 ]. The COVID-19 disruption is independently heightening levels of psychological problems, post-traumatic stress symptomology, anxiety, and depression among children [ 64 ]. In particular, the pandemic has resulted in childcare and school closures and has highlighted the integral role school food services have in feeding children in families with fragile financial health [ 65 ]. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the myriad of connections and networks across micro-environments and the community that support child development. The effects of the pandemic are yet unrealized but early indications are that consequences will be profound, both in the short and long term.

4.4. Limitations

This state-of-the-art review represents food insecurity and child development outcomes over the past decade; however, there are limitations to note. Only papers written in English were reviewed and as such work presented in languages other than English that may represent broader child development outcomes in settings that are not USA-centric may not have been included. We employed broad search terms to capture the food insecurity concept including for example; access, availability, insufficiency. However, given the complexity of the concept, papers that used an alternative term may have been missed. Unlike previous reviews, a majority of papers identified in the last decade used the USDA-HFSSM tool or some variation. This is indicative of the state of current research with the USDA-HFSSM tool being used as a gold standard, however, other tools are available and therefore prior studies using different tools are not represented in the findings of this review. The current review includes a combination of longitudinal and cross-sectional studies and, while longitudinal studies provided stronger evidence of potential pathways through which food insecurity may impact on child developmental outcomes, they do not provide causal pathways.

4.5. Future Research Directions

There are several significant issues hindering our ability to determine the effects of food insecurity on child development. These include the inconsistent measurement of and thresholds used to define both food insecurity and child development outcomes. Subsequently, the associations and effects reported are difficult to interpret and our ability to generalize and compare across studies is limited. As such, having assessed the current state of the art literature, we identified the following recommendations and potential opportunities for the future direction of this line of research. These include:

  • Consistent measurement and operationalization of FI including accounting for severity, specifically separating out marginal food security from being fully food secure.
  • High quality studies that explore severity together with persistence/trajectories of FI and its impact on child development.
  • Consistent and standardized measures of child development outcomes.
  • A systematic and socio-ecological (proximal and distal) approach to incorporation of covariates in models.
  • Research conducted beyond the U.S. Given the differences in childcare arrangements, social welfare policies, and practices across countries, the associations between child development and food insecurity needs to be examined in other high-income countries.
  • Exploration of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security and its influence on child development. The pandemic has been a significant, global event with pervasive socio-cultural consequences that could have long-term impacts on child outcomes.
  • Research that incorporates evidence of children’s diet quality linked to food insecurity severity and persistence and developmental outcomes.
  • Research that asks children about their experiences of food security. To date, only two studies were located [ 66 , 67 ] that asked children directly about their experience.

5. Conclusions

This state-of-the-art review indicates that food security status, severity, and persistence do adversely impact upon child development outcomes. The strongest evidence of an effect of food insecurity has been found in academic/cognitive outcomes and externalizing behaviors. The relationship with psychosocial outcomes and internalizing behavior is less clear. Furthermore, longitudinal research on developmental risk and food insecurity is critically needed.

That children in countries producing a surfeit of food are denied the right to quality food is untenable and indicates a failure of political and public will. Furthermore, this situation has likely been exacerbated in recent times with the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in countries where welfare is not easily obtained. The longitudinal socioeconomic effects of this global pandemic are yet to be revealed, but it is foreseeable that there will be significant consequences for ongoing food security, even in many high-income countries, and hence for concurrent and downstream child development outcomes. As such, the time to act is now. What is evident, from this review is that food insecurity is a significant issue in high-income countries. Even if children are not hungry, a level of anxiety about where the next meal is coming from does seem to adversely impact child development. In addition, moving in and out of food security as well as experiencing persistent marginal food security or food insecurity contributes to adverse child development outcomes across cognitive and behavioral domains.

There is an imperative to improve understanding of the association between food insecurity and child development, and further, elucidate the causes of food insecurity. In ameliorating the causes, the right to food can become a reality for all.


We would like to acknowledge the contributions of Stuart Leske and Claire Archer as research assistants in the writing of this review. This research was supported (partially) by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (Project ID CE200100025).

Supplementary Materials

The following are available online at https://www.mdpi.com/article/10.3390/ijerph18178990/s1 , Supplementary Table S1: Search and Boolean Terms; Supplementary Table S2: Quality assessment ratings of included studies.

Author Contributions

D.G. and C.P. conceptualized the review and undertook screening, quality assessment, data extraction, and drafting, reviewing, and finalizing the manuscript. P.S. developed the search terms, undertook searches, screened records and reviewed the final manuscript. A.E. undertook data extraction and quality assessment, before drafting, reviewing, and finalizing the manuscript. All authors agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Conflicts of interest.

D.G. is currently supported by funding from the Queensland Children’s Hospital Foundation via a philanthropic donation from Woolworths. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results. All remaining authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Home — Essay Samples — Science — Food Safety — Global Food Insecurity: Causes And Solutions


Global Food Insecurity: Causes and Solutions

  • Categories: Food Safety World Food Crisis

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Words: 2149 |

11 min read

Published: May 17, 2022

Words: 2149 | Pages: 5 | 11 min read

Table of contents

Introduction, section i. background, section ii. technologies that can reduce hunger and improve food security, section iii. specific factors in chosen developing country.

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  • World Resources Institute. 2018. How to Sustainably Feed 10 Billion People by 2050, in 21 Charts? Retrieved from https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/how-sustainably-feed-10-billion-people-2050-21-charts
  • Bread for the World. 2020. About Hunger. Who Experiences Hunger. Retrieved from https://www.bread.org/who-experiences-hunger
  • World Food Programme. Philippines: World Food Programme Clarification on Yolanda Response Funds. Retrieved from https://www.wfp.org/news/wfp-statement-yolanda-reponse-funds
  • Bill Gates. 2017. The tech solutions to end global hunger. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/health/tech-apps-solving-global-hunger-famine/index.html
  • iCow. 2020. We aim to secure food production. Retrieved from https://www.icow.co.ke/
  • WordPress. 2020. Kilimo Salama. Since we cannot control the weather. Retrieved from https://kilimosalama.wordpress.com/about/
  • Grameen Foundation. 2020. The end of poverty is finally within reach. Retrieved from https://grameenfoundation.org/?url=https://grameenfoundation.org/&gclid=Cj0KCQiAkKnyBRDwARIsALtxe7iX8k7sJWnhLUIi7-zh8cEXVS_OvdMq4hAD4Hq9n-rW4O3wM2oniP0aAgo3EALw_wcB
  • Kiko Pangilinan. 2016. P-Noy Becoming a Farmer Upon Retirement a Big Boost to PH Farmers, Agriculture. Retrieved from https://kikopangilinan.com/2016/03/18/pangilinan-p-noy-becoming-a-farmer-upon-retirement-a-big-boost-to-ph-farmers-agriculture/
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Food Security Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Food , Security , Food Security , World , FAO , United Nations , People , Insecurity

Published: 03/30/2023


What Is Food Security?

Various organizations define food insecurity differently while explaining the same phenomenon. According to The World Food Summit held in October 1996, “Food security exist 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 lifestyle” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001, p. 4). It is important to note that the foregoing definition of food security focuses on the availability of food for everyone. This focus is because more people shifted from subsistence farming in favor of commercial farming thereby targeting industrial development. This shift has created considerable challenges, especially in the less developed and developing counties upon which the World Food Programme estimates that about 1.02 billion people are malnourished (World Food Programme, 2009). Some scholars believe that family planners have the responsibility of eradicating food insecurity by increasing the productivity of land. According to Brown, land productivity has slowed down since the 1990 given that despite the world population growth slowing for the past three decades, an estimated 76 million people continue to suffer food insecurity annually (Brown, 2005). The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food insecurity to mean a condition where people are living with hunger and constant fear of facing starvation (Alweendo, 2009). This means a condition where people are having difficulties accessing food for their daily sustenance. It is obvious that the perspective of FAO’s definition derives from security in terms of the supply, which would ensure that every person is able to access the basic foodstuffs through various means including ensuring price stability for the basic foodstuffs. As such, FAO considers the causes of food insecurity as rise in food prices, climate change, and Global water crisis. In order to have a better understanding of the gist of food security, the World Food Programme (WFP) takes the perspective of the consequences of food insecurity. In particular, the WFP looks at the way constant hunger and malnutrition affect people and future generations throughout the world (Braun, 1992). For instance, the WFP believes that Malnutrition contributes immensely to diseases and that it mostly affects children and pregnant women (World Food Programme, 2009). By focusing on the consequences of food insecurity, the WFP is indirectly defining food security to mean the situation where there are no diseases due to hunger and malnutrition. Most people consider the state as having the main responsibility of ensuring food security. For instance, intergovernmental policies and programs in the poor nations play an important role of creating awareness regarding food and agriculture with the able guidance of FAO (Hulse & National Research Council Canada, 1995). According to FAO, the main food security monitors are the nutritional surveillance systems, the market information systems, agricultural production monitoring, and social monitoring that focus on observing the vulnerable groups (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001). Ultimately, access to food is at the core of food security as evidenced by The 1996 World Food Summit, the WFP, and FAO definitions of food security.

Alweendo, N. (2009). Namibia: Floods Reduce Food Security. Allafrica.com. Available from http://allafrica.com/stories/200907230894.html Braun, V. (1992). Improving food security of the poor: concept, policy, and programs. International Food Policy Research Institute. Brown, L. (2005). Outgrowing the Earth. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 6(3), pp 224. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). (2001). Issue 6 of Handbook for Defining and Setting Up a Food Security Information and Early Warning System. FAO Rome, 2000. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/nr/climpag/pub/Manual%20of%20FSIEWS.pdf Hulse, H., & Canada, R. (1995). Science, agriculture and food security. NRC Research Press. World Food Programme (2009). Our Work. World Food Programme Available from http://www.wfp.org/our-work


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Essay: Food security

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Food security


What is food security.

The World Food Summit in October, 1996 has defined food security as “Food security exist 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 lifestyle” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001, p. 4) and this definition has been kept within the aspects of food security such as the availability of staple foods, stability of suppliers and access for all to the supplies (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001).

People started relying less on subsistence farming as commercial and industrial development had steadily changed its susceptibility in developed countries after the 19th century where war, famine, and epidemics that were always correlated with fluctuations in food production that was linked to population fluctuations (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001).

Hunger remains the number one threat for heath and most of the world’s hunger comes from developing and less developed countries globally. There are 1.02 billion undernourished people in the world today (World Food Programme, 2009).

Today, hunger eradication depends on family planners as much as farmers since land productivity has slowed by half ever since 1990 because, even though the world’s population growth has slowed over the past three decades, there is still an additional 76 million people per year suffering from food insecurity (Brown R. L., 2005).

Food insecurity on the other hand, is defined by FAO as “a term applied when people live with hunger and fear of starvation’ (Alweendo, 2009).

The cause of food insecurity

Rising food prices

Food is no longer cheap as it was in the past and it is not only the present times where the world’s economy is facing food crisis which has always been seen with an obvious rise in food prices and this is directly and indirectly affecting the agriculture in many different ways (Sumanjeet, 2009).

While food price dropped in the more developed countries ever since the financial crisis, it has raised in developing countries and combined with the decrease in the level of income, it has caused a surge in people facing starvation (Pearlman, 2009) as people living in poverty in the less developed countries spends 50 to 70 percent of their income on food (World Food Programme, 2009).

Market speculation is another factor being held responsible for the recent jump in global food crisis and as the head of United Nation Environment Program has said, “The way that the markets and suppliers are currently being influenced by perceptions of future market is distorting the access to that food” (Sumanjeet, 2009). Sumanjeet also stated that with recent collapse in the USA and Britain’s stock market, speculations had shifted to the commodity markets and the global food market is particularly vulnerable seeing that recent food prices are inflected by its future prices.

Climate change

In a research conducted in 2005, it was reported that even a slight change in climate could affect the production of crops. For example, the slightest change of one degree Celsius in temperature could reduce the grain yields by 10 percent and this means the change in climate is now affecting the crops’ production directly (Brown R. L., 2005).

Accessing the food harvest was once rather straightforward as it was largely a matter of harvesting and extrapolating with minor adjustments. However, it has all recently changed in the recent years and is no longer only slowing or accelerating of trends but in certain cases, the direction is reversing (Brown L. R., 2005).

In some geographical regions, grain harvesting and fish catching that were once rising ubiquitously is now slowing down and shrinking in key food-producing areas as we have entered an era of discontinuity on the food front whereby making a reliable projection is even more difficult due to over-plowing and over-grazing (Brown L. R., 2005).

According to The Star, in the news today, sea species such as the jellyfish is heading north towards Japan due to global warming and is threatening the fishermen’s source of revenue and lives and this year’s swarm had been the worst. These marine intruders measuring up to 6 feet in diameters could ruin up to a day’s catch of 100,000 fishes by tainting or killing fishes when they are caught in the same net. Such increase in jellyfish is a warning sign of how unhealthy and stressed our oceans really are (The Star Online, 2009).

Global water crisis

Water security has been described as the “sustainability access to adequate quantities of water, of acceptable quality, for human and environmental uses, on a watershed basis” (Bakker, 2007).

Livestock farmers need to ensure that they have water sustainability as a key pre-requisite to a farm as it addresses their animals’ and crops’ welfare, health and performance (Manning, 2008).

Overuse of water resources is an increasing concern as poor management of water resources in some countries are leading to increased competition for water resources, hence reduced flows in rivers and lakes and this factors will impact the livestock and crops management and production (Manning, 2008).

An article by Alweendo, 2009 has confirmed that floods in Namibia are a threat to food security. Drought in the area has made farmers vulnerable in 2007 and floods in 2008 have made the situation worse.

The consequences of food insecurity

Household food security is an issue of importance to the people worldwide who are suffering from constant hunger and malnutrition and to those who are at risk in the future, including the upcoming generations (Braun, 1992).

Malnutrition and hunger

“Malnutrition is the largest single contributor to disease” (World Food Programme, 2009) and according to Guha-Khasnobis, Acharya, and Davis, 2008, inadequate calorie consumption, protein deficiency, poor dietary quality, insufficient consumptions of protein and micronutrients are among the many forms of malnutrition being suffered by over 30 percent of the world’s population. Guha-Khasnobis, Acharya, and Davis, 2008 also said that in developing countries, approximately 840 million people are undernourished or constantly food insecure while as many as 2.8 million children and 300,000 women dies needlessly every year because of malnutrition and this is particularly severe in countries such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

All estimates concludes that South Asia, particularly India and Bangladesh contributes to a great proportion of the developing world’s food insecure problem, followed by East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (Braun, 1992)

In 2006, Nigeria is still faced with the problem of associating their food supply with the ever increasing demand for it even after four decades of attaining their independence and due to economic recession, malnutrition and household food security are related human welfare problems that heightened (Lawal & Jibowo, 2006).

Children and pregnant women

As reported by UNICEF in 2008, it was revealed that the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children, especially from Africa and Asia are being hit hardest by climate change which leads to increased hunger and childhood diseases (UNICEF UK, 2008) and everyday, 14,000 children dies of hunger related causes (World Food Programme, 2009).

A poor dietary system together with infectious disease would cause a stunt in a child’s growth and physiological damage to the immune system, clinical conditions such as anemia which leads to impaired development and death (Iram & Butt, 2006). This would eventually result with baby girls who become mothers in the future who in turn have low birth weight and due to poor nutrition in the womb as some 30 million infants are born each year in developing countries with impaired growth (Iram & Butt, 2006).

Achieving food security

Food security is considered a primary responsibility of the state in all Asian countries while policies and programs of the states plays a key role, there is also an increasing awareness in meeting its objectives on the role of domestic and international markets as well as the civil society institutions (V. S. Vyas, Academic Foundation (New Delhi, India), Asian Development Research Forum (Bangkok, Thailand), Samnakngan Ko?ngthun Sanapsanun Kanwichai, International Development Research Centre (Canada), 2005).

Food security of the poorest nations calls for intergovernmental and inter-agency cooperation and one international agency in particular, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO) has the ability to provide the needed leadership and coordination mechanisms as they have the unique access to the up to date information on the state of food and agriculture around the world and are able to predict where climatic, political and other commotion might lead to local and regional food security (Hulse & National Research Council Canada, 1995).

Existing food security monitoring systems

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2001, most existing food security monitoring systems are used around four main pillars which includes agriculture production monitoring, the market information system, the social monitoring of the most helpless populations or monitoring of vulnerable groups and the food and nutirional surveillance systems.

Agriculture production monitoring is usually combined with monitoring the products of livestock farming and is often focused on cereal crops, animal production and/or grazing established by the statistical services of the ministry of agriculture by monitoring rainfed crops based on techniques such as climatic and meteorological analysis, agriculture field studies for harvest forecasting and satelite image processing (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001).

Data collection to supply information on the types of commodities examined, transmission and processing of data by telephone, fax, emails and dissemination of prices and availability of quantities and qualities must be carried out by Marketing Information System (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001).

Monitoring vulnerable groups includes monitoring the three types of food security which includes chromic food insecurity which affects individuals or groups who consumes less than the minimum needed over a period of time, cyclic food insecurity which affect farmers and transitory food insecurity that affects urban dwellers who depends on highly unstable markets (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001).

As for the food and nutrition surveillance system, the food and health relationship has an effect on the nutritional status of each individual. In general, there are five major sources for monitoring the health and nutrition data and this consist of adminitrative services which collects qualitative and quantitative data, random sample surveys which can add additional information to existing surveys for different purposes, precise study and research on health and welfare, community monitoring systems which data is usually collected and processed several times a year by health officials and international databases which uses the FAO’s access of the food situation and WHO’s Global Database on Child Growth (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001).


Forecasting could also be used as “it is the foundation of all warning systems” and is sometimes used by the organizations and firms who are responsible of monitoring the information and other bodies who are also gathering information on food security and it has to be applied to the areas of food security which includes the availability, stability, access and biological utilization (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001).

Fighting hunger

Besides agriculture monitoring, organizations such as World Food Programme (WFP) works hand in hand with other governments an non-profit organization was set up back in 1962 as the United Nation’s frontline agency in the fight against hunger and is continually responding to emergencies and preventing hunger in the future (World Food Programme, 2009).

According to the World Food Programme’s website, their strategic plan comes with five objectives and it includes saving lives and protecting livelihoods in emergencies, preparing for emergencies, restoring and rebuilding lives after emergencies, reducing chronic hunger and undernutriton everywhere and strenghtening the capacity of countries to reduce hunger and is geared towards achieving them.

WFP announced on 16 October 2009 that this year, they have aimed to provide food to 108 million people in 74 countries in the world and even given their aim, they could only reach approximately 10 percent of those who are in need globally (World Food Programme, 2009).

Malaysia’s agriculture has been through much change since the 1950s and had evolved a good deal in the past few decades. The Malaysian government had carried out an approach to overcome the problem of small farm size by grouping small farms into mini-estates to attain economies of scale for better management and production sustainability. “Overall, the government’s policies on sustainable agriculture development have been compatible with other policies, particularly improving living standards of the rural poor and small farmers”. (Agro-chemicals News in Brief, 1999).

On the other hand, the role of government in Pakistan, as in many other countries has been rather extensive as they have had certain explicit goals for the agriculture sector which comprises of agriculture pricing and marketing policies, whilst economic policies includes trade and commercial policies with goals that consist of “obtaining a high agriculture growth rate, increasing productivity of a sector, pursuing an export oriented strategy, conserving and developing the natural resources, promoting institutional development, bringing social and economic equity to the agrarian structure, and focusing on small farmers and rain-fed area development” (Carey & Farugee, 1995).

Another independent agency that provides economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States is the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). To date, the United States has been the world’s largest food aid donor in providing and in response to the food crisis, the United States’ Government has committed over US$5.5 billion for 2008 and 2009 to fight hunger globally and US$4.75 billion of these funds were programmed by USAID to provide immediate and expanded humanitarian response, invest in staple food production for vulnerable state, supporting trade liberalization to reduce price volatility and increase availability and use of advanced agricultural technologies (USAID, 2009).

Connecting farmers

Purchase for Progress (P4P), a project by the World Food Programme (WFP) is purchasing food in bulks from developing countries where they have operations, straps up their purchasing power to help poor farmers to connect with the market so that they will be able to get a good price for their produce for the reason that when farmers are able to secure a buyer and sell their produce, they will be able to grow more for the future (World Food Programme, 2009).

According to World Food Program, “P4P relies on a collective effort by governments, international agencies, the private sector and others key players. Partners specialized in enhancing agricultural productivity will help small-scale farmers to produce more food than their families need.”

Online campaigns

In Rome, The FAO has recently launched an online campaign, www. 1billionhungry.org, which calls upon the world to go on a ‘hunger strike against hunger’ to show solidarity for those who do not have enough to eat everyday with a petition to end hunger. It has options to allow Internet users from all over the world to promote the ‘end hunger petition’ through emails and various social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube (1billionhungry, 2009).

The United Nation’s World Food Programme on the other hand has launched a ‘Billion for a Billion’ campaign, www.wfp.org/1billion which is trying raise awareness and to gather one billion internet users to help eradicate world hunger (World Food Programme, 2009).

In the near future

40 years from today, there would be another 2.5 billion mouths to feed globally, where most of these people derive from developing countries such as Africa, South America and Asia. The crops production will have to double in quantity in order to feed the world’s growing population unless we are able to cut down on food wastage and reduce the water consumption. (Varma, 2009).

According to the World Food Programme’s Billion for a Billion campaign, for every 250,000,000 emails sent globally, there are 20 children who have died of hunger. In order for the food security to at least maintain the way it is at present, in the future, everything would have to be double of what is used today and is will not be sustainable (Varma, 2009).


1billionhungry. 2009. 1billionhungry . [online]. Available from: http://www.1billionhungry.org/ [Accessed 16 November 2009]

Agro-chemicals News in Brief. 1999. Sustainable food production, income generation and consumer protection in Malaysia . [online]. United Nations ESCAP. Available from: http://www.unescap.org/rural/doc/GreenFood/NIB-Sept2000_7.PDF [Accessed 1 November 2009]

Alweendo, N. 2009. Namibia: Floods Reduce Food Security . [online]. Allafrica.com. Available from: http://allafrica.com/stories/200907230894.html [Accessed 16 November 2009]

Bakker, K. 2007. New land use restrictions to protect water security. UCB Reports . 53 (1).

Braun, J. V. 1992. Improving food security of the poor: concept, policy, and programs . Intl Food Policy Res Inst.

Brown, L. R. 2005. Outgrowing the earth: the food security challenge in an age of falling water tables and rising temperatures . Earthscan.

Brown, R. L. 2005. Outgrowing the Earth. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education . 6 (3). pp 224.

Carey, K., & Farugee, R. 1995. Reforming the government’s role in Pakistan’s agriculture sector . [online]. BNET. Available from: HYPERLINK “http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_6788/is_3_34/ai_n28682589/” http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_6788/is_3_34/ai_n28682589/ [Accessed 1 November 2009]

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2001. Issue 6 of Handbook for Defining and Setting Up a Food Security Information and Early Warning System. Food & Agriculture Org., 2001.

Guha-Khasnobis, B., Acharya, S. S., & Davis, B. 2008. Food Security: Indicators, Measurement, and the Impact of Trade Openness. Oxford University Pres.

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Lawal, B., & Jibowo, A. 2006. Impact of household food security and nutrition programme on the nutritional status of children in Oyo state, Nigeria. Nutrition & Food Science . 36 (5). pp 327-336.

Manning, L. 2008. The impact of water quality and availability on food production . British Food Journal. 110 (8). pp 762-780.

Pearlman, J. 2009, October 27. Financial crisis hitting neediest in their bellies. [online]. The Sydney Morning Herald. Available from: HYPERLINK “http://www.smh.com.au/national/financial-crisis-hitting-neediest-in-their-bellies-20091026-hgps.html” http://www.smh.com.au/national/financial-crisis-hitting-neediest-in-their-bellies-20091026-hgps.html [Accessed 1 November 2009]

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The Star Online. 2009. How powerful is the jellyfish? Seems to be very. [online]. The Star Online Available from: http://biz.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/11/16/business/20091116121440&sec=business [Accessed 16 November 2009]

UNICEF UK. 2008. The tragic consequences of climate change for the world’s children. [online]. UNICEF UK. Available from: HYPERLINK “http://www.unicef.org.uk/press/news_detail_full_story.asp?news_id=1120” http://www.unicef.org.uk/press/news_detail_full_story.asp?news_id=1120 [Accessed 1 November 2009]

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Essays on Food Security


Essay on Food Security in India

Students are often asked to write an essay on Food Security in India in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Food Security in India


Food security is a vital concern for any nation. In India, it means access to sufficient food for all people at all times.

Importance of Food Security

Food security ensures that everyone, regardless of their economic status, can get nutritious food. It is crucial for health, growth, and survival.

Challenges in India

Despite being an agrarian economy, India faces food security issues. Poverty, inadequate public distribution, and climate change are major challenges.

Government Initiatives

The Indian government has launched schemes like the Public Distribution System (PDS) and National Food Security Act (NFSA) to address food insecurity.

While challenges persist, concerted efforts can ensure food security in India, promoting health and reducing poverty.

250 Words Essay on Food Security in India

Food security, a global concern, is particularly pressing in India, a country home to a quarter of the world’s undernourished population. It involves ensuring that all people have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, meeting their dietary needs for an active and healthy life.

The State of Food Security in India

Despite being one of the world’s largest food producers, India faces a paradox of high malnutrition rates juxtaposed with significant food grain wastage. The Global Hunger Index 2020 placed India at an alarming 94th position out of 107 countries.

Challenges in Achieving Food Security

The primary challenges include inadequate food distribution systems, socio-economic disparities, and agricultural issues like low farm productivity and climate change. The Public Distribution System (PDS), a safety net for the poor, has been criticized for corruption, inefficiency, and exclusion of the genuinely needy.

Strategies for Improvement

To enhance food security, India must focus on improving agricultural productivity through sustainable practices, enhancing the efficiency of the PDS, and empowering women who play a significant role in agriculture and nutrition. Technological innovations such as precision farming, digital platforms for market access, and improved storage facilities can also play a pivotal role.

Food security is a complex issue requiring a multi-dimensional approach. While India has made strides, much work remains. By addressing the root causes of food insecurity and implementing comprehensive strategies, India can ensure food security for all its citizens, thus moving towards a healthier and more prosperous future.

500 Words Essay on Food Security in India

Food security is a critical issue in India, a country with a diverse population of over 1.3 billion individuals. The concept of food security encompasses not only the availability of food but also access to it, its utilization, and stability over time. Despite significant strides in agriculture and economic growth, India struggles with the challenge of providing adequate food security to all its citizens.

The State of Food Insecurity

According to the Global Hunger Index 2020, India ranks 94 out of 107 countries, indicating a serious level of hunger. This grim situation is primarily due to the high prevalence of undernourishment, child stunting, and wasting. It is alarming that despite being one of the world’s largest food producers, India is unable to ensure food security for all its citizens.

Challenges to Food Security

The major challenges to food security in India include population growth, poverty, climate change, and inefficient supply chains. Rapid population growth exerts immense pressure on the food supply. Poverty, on the other hand, restricts access to food, with many unable to afford nutritious meals. Climate change threatens agricultural productivity, and inefficient supply chains lead to significant food wastage.

The Indian government has implemented several initiatives to combat food insecurity. The National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two-thirds of India’s population. Other initiatives like the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and Public Distribution System (PDS) also contribute to improving food security.

The Role of Technology

Technology can play a pivotal role in enhancing food security. Precision farming, use of drones, remote sensing, and AI can increase agricultural productivity, reduce wastage, and improve supply chains. Digital platforms can help in better implementation of government schemes, ensuring benefits reach the intended recipients.

While India has made some progress in addressing food security, much remains to be done. It requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of food insecurity, such as poverty and inequality. Government initiatives need to be strengthened and effectively implemented. The use of technology should be promoted to increase agricultural productivity and improve supply chains. Ensuring food security for all is not just a matter of policy but a fundamental right that needs to be upheld.

In conclusion, food security in India is a complex issue that needs urgent attention. It is a challenge that requires the collective efforts of the government, private sector, civil society, and individuals. Only then can India hope to achieve the goal of a hunger-free nation.

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Food Security in India

Last updated on December 10, 2023 by ClearIAS Team

food security in India

Food security in India has been a significant policy concern for many years. India’s economy may be the one that is booming most rapidly in the world, but it is also seeing an increase in food price inflation. Read here to understand the food insecurity in India.

The price of food began to rise rapidly in 2019 and has continued to grow ever since. Annual inflation in July 2023 hit 11%, which was the highest level in a decade.

A portion of the population may have difficulty obtaining food with sufficient nutritional content as a result of the ongoing high food price inflation.

The term “food security” refers to the availability, accessibility, and affordability of safe and nutritious food for all individuals in a country.

Table of Contents

Food insecurity in India

Food insecurity in India has been a longstanding and complex issue, despite significant improvements in food production and distribution over the years. Several factors contribute to food insecurity in the country:

  • Poverty: A significant portion of India’s population lives below the poverty line. Low income and lack of economic opportunities can limit people’s access to nutritious food.
  • Unequal Distribution: While India produces enough food to feed its population, the distribution of food is unequal. Food often doesn’t reach those who need it the most, leading to food shortages in certain regions.
  • Price Fluctuations: Price fluctuations in essential food commodities, such as rice and wheat, can make them unaffordable for many people during times of high inflation.
  • Agricultural Challenges: India’s agriculture sector faces challenges such as unpredictable weather patterns, water scarcity, soil degradation, and inadequate infrastructure. These factors can lead to lower crop yields and affect food production.
  • Land Ownership: Unequal land ownership patterns can limit small-scale farmers’ access to land and resources, making it difficult for them to produce sufficient food for their families.
  • Food Wastage: A significant amount of food is lost or wasted during production, storage, and distribution. This wastage contributes to food scarcity.
  • Malnutrition: Food insecurity is often linked to malnutrition. Even when food is available, it may lack the necessary nutrients for a balanced diet, leading to malnutrition issues, especially among children.
  • Urbanization: Rapid urbanization has led to changes in dietary habits, with a greater reliance on processed and less nutritious foods, contributing to health-related food insecurity issues.
  • Natural Disasters: India is prone to natural disasters like droughts, floods, and cyclones. These events can disrupt food production and lead to food shortages in affected areas.
  • COVID-19 Pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns further exacerbated food insecurity by disrupting supply chains, affecting livelihoods, and increasing the vulnerability of marginalized populations.

While India has implemented various food security programs like the Public Distribution System (PDS) , the National Food Security Act (NFSA), and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, there are often challenges in their effective implementation, including issues related to leakages and corruption.

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Also read: Global Food Security Index 2021

Food security in India

India has made significant progress in improving food security, but challenges still exist.

  • Food Production: India has made remarkable progress in increasing food production, particularly in staple crops like rice and wheat. The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s played a crucial role in boosting agricultural productivity.
  • Buffer Stocks: India maintains strategic grain reserves, known as buffer stocks , to stabilize food prices and meet emergencies. These stocks are managed by agencies like the Food Corporation of India (FCI) .
  • Addressing Malnutrition: India has implemented programs to address malnutrition, particularly among children and pregnant women. These programs focus on improving nutritional intake and health outcomes.
  • Containing Pandemic Impact: The COVID-19 pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in India’s food security system, as lockdowns disrupted supply chains and livelihoods. The government implemented relief measures, including distributing free food grains to vulnerable populations.
  • Nutrition Quality: While food availability has improved, the focus is shifting toward improving the quality of food and addressing issues of hidden hunger, where people lack essential vitamins and minerals in their diet.
  • Sustainable Agriculture: There is a growing emphasis on sustainable agriculture practices, including organic farming, to ensure long-term food security while protecting the environment.
  • Climate Change Resilience: Building resilience to climate change is a priority for ensuring food security in the face of changing weather patterns and extreme events.
  • Role of Technology: Technology is being increasingly harnessed for better crop management , weather forecasting, and food distribution, which can enhance food security efforts.

Government initiatives

National Food Security Act (NFSA):

  • The NFSA, enacted in 2013, is a landmark legislation aimed at providing legal entitlements to food for a large section of India’s population. It aims to ensure that a specified quantity of food grains is made available to eligible beneficiaries at affordable prices.

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)

  • The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, which began on October 2, 1975, is one of the Government of India’s flagship programs and one of the world’s largest and most innovative early childhood care and development programs.

Public Distribution System

  • It is defined as the system in which food procured by the FCI is distributed among the weaker or poorer sections of society.

Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY)

  • This scheme was launched in December 2000. Under this scheme, one crore of the poorest among the BPL families covered under the targeted public distribution system was identified. In this scheme, the State Rural Development Department has identified poor families through the Below poverty line survey.

Other schemes and initiatives:

  • Eat Right India Movement
  • POSHAN Abhiyan
  • Food Fortification
  • National Innovations Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA)

Way forward

Improving food security in India is a multifaceted challenge that requires a combination of policies, programs, and initiatives aimed at increasing food availability, access, and utilization.

Enhance Agricultural Productivity:

  • Invest in agricultural research and development to develop high-yield and climate-resilient crop varieties.
  • Promote sustainable farming practices, including organic farming and precision agriculture.
  • Improve access to modern farming technologies, such as improved seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation systems.

Increase Crop Diversification:

  • Encourage diversification of crops to reduce dependency on a few staple crops and improve dietary diversity.
  • Promote the cultivation of nutritious crops, fruits, and vegetables to address malnutrition issues.

Support Small-Scale Farmers:

  • Provide small-scale farmers with access to credit, affordable crop insurance, and agricultural extension services.
  • Promote farmer cooperatives and self-help groups to enhance collective bargaining power.

Water Management:

  • Invest in water conservation and management techniques to address water scarcity issues.
  • Promote efficient irrigation practices, such as drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting.

Infrastructure Development:

  • Improve rural infrastructure, including roads, storage facilities, and markets, to reduce post-harvest losses and connect farmers to consumers.

Food Distribution and Supply Chain Enhancement:

  • Strengthen the Public Distribution System (PDS) and other food distribution networks to ensure efficient and equitable access to food.
  • Address issues related to food wastage during storage and transportation.

Nutrition Education:

  • Launch public awareness campaigns to educate people about balanced nutrition and healthy eating habits.
  • Implement school-based nutrition programs to improve the health and nutrition of children.

Social Safety Nets:

  • Expand and strengthen social safety net programs like the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme to provide subsidized food to vulnerable populations.

Support for Women in Agriculture:

  • Empower women in agriculture by providing training, credit, and land rights.
  • Recognize and value the crucial role of women in food production and household nutrition.

Climate Resilience:

  • Develop climate-resilient farming practices and provide support to farmers to adapt to changing climate patterns.
  • Promote agroforestry and sustainable land use practices.

Reduce Food Loss and Waste:

  • Implement measures to reduce food loss and waste at all stages of the supply chain, from farm to fork.
  • Encourage food donation and redistribution programs to redirect surplus food to those in need.

Research and Innovation:

  • Invest in research and innovation to find solutions to food security challenges, including crop diseases, pests, and climate-related issues.

Policy and Governance:

  • Strengthen governance and transparency in food-related policies and programs to reduce corruption and ensure effective implementation.
  • Monitor and evaluate food security initiatives to assess their impact and make necessary improvements.

International Cooperation:

  • Collaborate with international organizations and neighboring countries on food security initiatives, trade agreements, and disaster response.

Also read: Malnutrition in India

Addressing food insecurity in India requires a multi-pronged approach that includes improving agricultural practices, ensuring equitable distribution, reducing food wastage, enhancing access to social safety nets, and addressing poverty and malnutrition.

Government policies and programs, as well as international cooperation and support, play crucial roles in mitigating food insecurity and improving food access for all segments of the population.

India has made significant strides in improving food security, but challenges such as poverty, inequality, and the impacts of climate change continue to influence the nation’s efforts to ensure that all its citizens have access to adequate and nutritious food.

Addressing these challenges requires ongoing policy measures, investment in agriculture and rural development, and a commitment to social safety nets and nutrition programs.

Also read:  Biofortification

-Article by Swathi Satish

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