close up of a green apple

Food security—the most egalitarian and humanitarian concept around?

Everyone with sufficient, safe and nutritious food all the time is perhaps the most egalitarian definition in the diplomatic lexicon. We like it and here is why.

All people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active Life

This utopian condition for humanity is the commonly accepted definition of food security. 

Sustainably FED shortens this to feeding everyone well.

Either way, there is no ambiguity about

  • Everyone all the time 
  • sufficient 
  • safe 
  • nutritious 
  • health and 
  • well-being

Each word and phrase is clear and combines into perhaps the most egalitarian and humanitarian definition in the global Lexicon. Whilst politics is ever present it is hard for any political party or politician to sour this ambition.

As you will expect, sustainably FED looks behind these kinds of statements to be sure that the meaning is clear.

Everyone, all the time, is unambiguous.  It works so long as all the time includes time yet to happen. Food security today is no use if there is a famine next month.

Sufficient means enough, but assumes that it is enough of the right foods in the combinations that deliver the necessary nutrition. This is picked up in nutritious and healthy, but it is interesting that enough is not implicitly about a healthy diet.

The type of food matters, as does the nutritional content of the food. An adequate volume of fruit and vegetables is not sufficient if the food lacks trace nutrients—micronutrient deficiencies affect 2 billion people globally, according to the World Health Organisation.

Safe is taken for granted in the west. Food processing, packaging and labelling have been regulated to ensure there are few unsafe foods sold. Education on food selection, preparation and storage are central to all human cultures. There are gender biases in what is learned and who carries out key tasks, but most families have at least one member who can boil an egg. Only in the fast food democracies are there generations of youngsters who think milk comes from the fridge. Increasingly food safety is delivered by the food system and not from personal responsibility.

Nutritious means there is food for calories, protein, and all the trace elements needed for human health. There are ?? of these.

A challenge is that each human has a unique combination of requirements for nutrition, partly because of the relationship with each highly personal microbiome. Researchers are still learning about how important this is for overall health and well-being.

And what is health?

At one level, the absence of illness and a slippery combination of traits and feelings. This is perhaps the most ambiguous of the terms, but it still has enough general meaning to suffice. A food-secure person is not suffering from malnutrition, food poisoning, obesity or other diet-related illness.

Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

What sustainably FED suggests 

We congratulate the academics, diplomats and politicians who created and support this definition of food security.

We like it.

It implies there is enough production of the right foods to ensure well-being. Of course, there are nuances to add, notably around cultural sensitivities and local context, as well as the endless debate on the best diet.

But as an agreed starting position, it is sound.

Now all that is needed is to implement food production systems that can deliver on the definition.

Hero image from photo by Marina Grynykha on Unsplash


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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