Food Security & Global Health

What is Food Security?

Food security is a crosscutting issue with implications for health, agriculture, trade and the environment. There have been more than 200 different definitions of food security published throughout the years. Needless to say, this has made the process of measuring food security very challenging. In 2008, for example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that there were 850 million hungry people (820 million of them live in developing countries). This figure has been contested by experts who argue that it does not accurately reflect those who are hungry and in need of food.

UN agencies refer to the World Food Summit of 1996 when attempting to define food security. The summit declared that “food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels [is achieved] when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Thus, development experts concluded that food security encompasses the availability, access, stability,and use of food. The latter is contingent upon nutritional knowledge as well as safe water and sanitation. When analyzing this on the family level, the question of whether or not households receive enough food – and whether that food is a viable source of nutrition for all members of the household – is clearly a matter of public health.

Copyright 2010 The Global Health Council

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