Food Security 101

“Food security” is a concept that has become widely understood by poverty activists and scholars and helping professionals. While the concept is rich with notions that move the conversation of hunger beyond that of simply providing enough food for all, the term can be isolating and confusing for people unaware of its full definition. Is food security simply having regular and secure access to enough food? Does it have a micro, mezzo, or macro approach? Who is considered food secure and who is not? Below we explore these questions and provide a fully fleshed out definition of the concept. 

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization defines food security as the following:

“a condition in which 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”

As emphasized by the above definition, food security is not simply about having enough food. Rather, it is about having enough of the right foods. In this respect, food security takes on an equity and anti-oppression framework that looks to challenge systemic barriers to accessing food while also ensuring that each individual has access to food that is appropriate to them by their own definition of appropriate.

While rather comprehensive, this definition falls short on addressing the production aspect of food. How is the person(s) producing the food implicated? Are their human rights being honoured? What are the environmental effects of the foods being produced? This is where the Five A’s of food security come in. 

The Five A’s of Food Security

Availability sufficient food for all people at all times

Accessibility – physical and economic access to food for all at all times

Adequacy – access to food that is nutritious and safe, and produced in environmentally sustainable ways

Acceptability – access to culturally acceptable food, which is produced and obtained in ways that do not compromise people’s dignity, self-respect or human rights

Agency – the policies and processes that enable the achievement of food security

By addressing the above variables, food security acts an umbrella term that ultimately advocates for equity in all aspects of food from seed to consumption. This allows for a holistic analysis of the food system while acknowledging the individual needs, knowledges, and experiences of all people in relation to food. 

The Levels of Food Security

Food security happens across all levels of society and reaches all parts of the globe. Listed below are the levels of food security as understood by the research and work of food security advocates.

Household

Community 

Regional

National

Global

There you have it – what food security is really all about! Please feel free to look through our blog or contact us at foodroom@rsuonline.ca for more resources. 

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