With the World Committee on Food Security meeting this week at FAO…

I thought I would throw in some definitions. It gets super confusing and many think that food security means military protecting national food stores, or food safety. FAO has some decent definitions here too.

What does it mean to be hungry? In its common usage, hunger describes the subjective feeling of discomfort that follows a period without eating, however even temporary periods of hunger can be debilitating to longer term human growth and development. Acute hunger is when lack of food is short term and is often caused by shocks, whereas chronic hunger is a constant or recurrent lack of food. Reducing levels of hunger places the emphasis on the quantity of food, and refers to ensuring a minimum caloric intake is met. Conversely, ensuring adequate nutrition refers to a diet’s quality. A diet rich in proteins, essential fatty acids, and micronutrients has been proven to improve birth weight, growth, and cognitive development while leading to lower levels of child mortality.

The definition of food security set out at the 1996 World Food Summit stated that “food security exists when all people at all times have both physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs for a productive and healthy life”. The achievement of food security depends upon three distinct but interrelated processes. The first is food availability, which refers to ensuring sufficient quantity and diversity of food is available for consumption from the farm, the marketplace or elsewhere. Second, food access refers to households having the physical and financial resources required to obtain these foods. Third, food utilization implies the capacity and resources necessary to use food appropriately to support healthy diets. This might include access to potable drinking water and adequate sanitation, knowledge of food preparation and the basic principles of good nutrition, proper child care and illness management, and so forth. Most precisely, the concept of ‘nutrition security’ has been defined as “having adequate protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals for all household members at all times”

Malnutrition is a broad term commonly used to describe people who are malnourished if their diet does not provide adequate calories, protein for growth and maintenance, and micronutrients; or they are unable to fully utilize the food they eat due to illness. A lack of these essential vitamins and minerals often results in “hidden hunger” where the signs of malnutrition and hunger are less visible in the immediate sense. This can result in the nutrition disorder of undernutrition. Although a lot of the focus regarding malnutrition centers around undernourishment, overnutrition is also a disorder of malnutrition in which individuals consume too many calories, make poor food choices, or do not have access to high quality food. One of the major long-term determinants of both malnutrition is poverty, in both developed and developing countries.

Increased consumption of unhealthy foods compounded with increased prevalence of overweight in middle-to-low-income countries is typically referred to as the “Nutrition Transition.” It occurs usually with the epidemiological transition and has serious implications in terms of public health outcomes, risk factors, economic growth and international nutrition policy. The nutrition transition is malnutrition ensuing not merely from a need for food, but the need for high-quality nourishment. Foods rich in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) such as fruits, vegetables, some meat and dairy products have been substituted by foods rich in sugar, fat and sodium. This trend, which began in developed, industrialized countries, has spread to developing countries.

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This entry was posted in hunger, malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, nutrition transition, obesity and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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