BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Food Insecurity



Hunger is an unpleasant feeling reflected by abdominal pain, discomfort, irritability or headaches. These feelings tell our brain that we’re hungry so we can find something to eat. In the case of food insecurity, there is the unavailability or lack of access to food in the face of hunger. Food insecurity is fear of hunger because there is nothing to, something that is more common than we think. Food insecurity is a global problem and needs to be addressed as public health emergency. Although the statistics in the developing nations of Africa, Asia and South America is alarming, the problem of food insecurity is far from being restricted to these regions; there is a lot of food insecurity in North America including US, Canada and other developed nations. About 1 in 7 people have food insecurity in the US; some regions like Milwaukee are even worse with 1 in 4 people living with food insecurity (Nunavut and other parts of northern Canada have more than 40% of people living in food insecurity). There is a direct correlation between food insecurity and protein energy malnutrition with resulting effects like psychosocial problems (depression and anxiety), stunting growth and other developmental problems predominantly seen in children. In addition, food insecurity is a risk factor that sits at the heart of many public health problems such as marginalization, food safety, political Instability and mass migrations, etc.

It is necessary to know the components of food insecurity to understand how it is caused. The four components of food insecurity are:

  • Availability: Sufficient quantities of appropriate food are unavailable from domestic production, commercial imports or food assistance.
  • Access: Adequate income or other resources are unavailable to access appropriate food through home production, buying, exchange, gifts, borrowing or food aid.
  • Utilization: Food eaten is unsafe from contaminants and nutritionally inadequate to meet the needs of the individual
  • Stability: Adequate food is lacking at all times so that access and availability of food is curtailed by acute or recurring emergencies

The most common cause of serious food insecurity is political instability due to conflicts and wars. It is almost impossible to see any war where hunger is not used as a war strategy; Yemen, South Sudan, Syria…These disrupt food availability to as much as 30-50% of the population. Aside conflict, government policies like reduced budget allocation to agriculture, reduced incentives and loans to farmers could increase the likelihood of food insecurity. Also, Poverty which is related to unemployment and low income leads to food insecurity by reducing access to available food. It is more common in developing countries, rural areas and marginalized groups. More so, extreme climate events like global warming and natural disasters such as droughts and floods are also important causes of increasing food crisis and insecurity. One of the oldest examples come from the biblical Egyptian famine story where Joseph saved the Egyptians by storing food in the good times.

With that said, we would expect to address food insecurity by working on the above causes but it’s not that simple. First, natural disasters and conflicts are out of control most times, plus poverty which remains a persistent problem. One of the most important things is to address the stigma around food stamps which leads to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and shame. Food supports should be available and accessible to people in need; not by increasing production as, sadly, one-third of the world food is wasted. This is why there should be food policies that would facilitate proper food distribution. There are lots of stereotypes about people living in food insecurity; that hunger should have a certain appearance (ragged clothes) but there are well dressed people who do not know where their next meal would come from. Public health programs, education and awareness are needed to correct these unfounded beliefs.

Comments are closed.