What will it take to guarantee food security?

Food security for all is in everyone’s best interest but it’s how to get there that presents political and social challenges

Take a look at this list of promises to 

  • increase minimum wages 
  • install green spaces in towns and cities
  • upgrade public transport systems everywhere
  • prioritise school education on nutrition and agriculture 
  • promote affordable, accessible childcare for all 
  • maintain the right of citizens to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods,
  • decentralize the food system. 

These promises could easily be a manifesto by a political party — most likely socialist or progressive — seeking the electorate’s approval.

It’s from an article by food systems advisor Arturo Jose Garcia, an adaptation of his list of actions needed to combat food insecurity.

Notice that these solutions are all about equitable access to food.

Access connects with ideas on the skewed consumption of food and food waste, the food that is never eaten, rather than on the amount produced. 

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

UNEP estimates that around one third or 1.3 billion tonnes of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.


There is enough food 

It may be different by 2050, but for the moment, global food production is more than sufficient to feed everyone.  Analysts and researchers agree that enough calories are grown on farms to go around, but inefficient distribution and too much waste.  The production of foods for nutrient needs has gaps, especially for global fruit and vegetables, but structural tweaks could restore availability. 

Given food production is, for the time being, strong, the focus of food insecurity is universal food access, hence a list that focuses on reducing poverty and shortening food supply chains.

Cheap food and wealth creation would improve food access and many a politician would argue there are already policies in place. They would say the market sorts out both. 

So what to make of this observation by Sentient Media that…

As of April 2021, you can walk into a McDonald’s anywhere in the U.S. and buy a burger for $1. If buying wholesale, you can purchase chicken at $0.78 per pound and eggs at $0.80. The vegan alternatives to these products are far more expensive: Boca chicken patties come in at $4 a pound, and Just Eggs come in at $8.

Access to cheap food is fixed by raising living standards. Access to healthy alternatives is a step further because there is a substantial price disparity for foods perceived as more nutritious options.

Add the convenience of the modern staples — highly processed options containing bread, sugar and seed oils with a hint of meat and dairy — and even the people with ready access are tempted to eat poorly.

But this makes good nutrition a social problem too. Access alone is not enough. Promises should result in an equitable access to healthy food.

All this socialism may be politically unpalatable to many but it does provide a solution to global food security.  Libertarians and those on the right will not find their economic outcomes in a world where people are starving.

Arturo Garcia puts forward another benefit of equitable access:

Quote from Arturo Garcia that food security benefits all

What sustainably FED suggests

Think of food more widely.

Ingestion is always the most sacred of actions, and for most of us, what we eat and when is a choice. It is easy to become insular and, dare we say, selfish when it comes to food. 

What we eat is personal. 

The principle of equitable access to healthy food is bigger than the individual and that is how we need to view food, at least some of the time.

Food security becomes the right of citizens to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods. 

The cheap food options from the mass production of grains, sugar and seed oils do not go far enough. Keeping people alive on cheap food that gives them diabetes or obesity is not ideal.

Access to healthy food is harder than just feeding people.


Hero image from photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Mark

Mark is an ecology nerd who was cursed with an entrepreneurial gene and a big picture view making him a rare beast, uncomfortable in the ivory towers and the disconnected silos of the public service. Despite this he has made it through a 40+ year career as a scientist and for some unknown reason still likes to read scientific papers.

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