The Basics of Food Security

As the world’s population grows, the need to provide food for all people will intensify the conversation about food security. According to estimates by the U.S. Department of State, global food production will have to increase 70 percent by 2050 in order to feed the world's growing population, and currently “[m]ore than one billion people... suffer from chronic hunger.”  In the United States alone, 15.8 million households are food insecure.

What is food security?

At its most basic level, food security is the ability to provide access to sufficient food for all people. But as a global issue, food security is more complicated, as it involves more than simply the production and distribution of food.

What contributes to food insecurity?

  • Price: Access to food is influenced by a variety of factors, but the price of food is a primary barrier for those who are food insecure.
  • Conflict Zones: In conflict-prone regions, hazardous conditions can make it difficult to safely access food or deliver it to those who are in need. Food sources suffer in times of war, and many countries in conflict cannot provide enough food to meet demand. For example, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), in South Sudan, nearly 5 million people, “mainly in conflict-affected states,” are severely food-insecure.
  • Sufficient Supply: The USDA states that the average person needs “roughly 2,100 calories per day per person.” Supplying sufficient food to meet those needs is dependent on production and imports of many different kinds of food. Production depends on many factors including weather, the health of the soil and land, and access to fresh water. Imports are dependent on a country's finances and, sometimes,  are restricted by international policies like embargoes.
  • Achieving a Balanced Diet: Counting calories is not enough. In order to live a healthy, active life, people need a balanced diet that provides them with an adequate supply of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as well as sufficient vitamins and minerals.

The Future of Food Security

While food security impacts all parts of the world, some areas are more vulnerable than others, specifically areas suffering from drought and conflict. But don’t get too complacent. Food security is a global problem that deserves the attention of the world, not just a subset of countries. Food security is predicted to become more of an issue if current trends continue. Next week, we'll take a look at what is being done to address the problem.