What is Food Insecurity?
Food insecurity is a measure of an individual’s inability to access enough safe, nutritious food to remain healthy and lead an active life. It occurs when physical, social or economic circumstances disrupt a person’s access to sufficient quantities of nutritious food to remain healthy.
Food insecurity also occurs when a person has enough food in quantity, but it does not contain the quality of nutrition needed for a healthy life. Such a person is at a higher risk of obesity and disabling, even deadly, chronic diseases.
In short, food insecurity is inadequate access to food in quality, quantity or both.
According to the USA’s recent Economic Research Service study of international food security in 77 low- and middle-income countries, among the countries studied ...
The estimated prevalence of food insecurity in 2022 corresponds to more than 1.3 billion people potentially not having consistent access to the daily caloric threshold of 2,100 kcal.
Are There Different Levels of Food Insecurity?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, headquartered in New York, there are two different levels of food insecurity:
- Moderate food insecurity. People experiencing moderate food insecurity (or marginal food security) are facing uncertainties about their ability to obtain food and have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of food they consume due to not having enough money or other resources.
- Severe food insecurity. People facing severe food insecurity have typically run out of food, are experiencing hunger and at the most extreme, have gone a day or more without eating.
Unlike in the United States and other high food security countries, there are no safety nets for food-insecure households in low-income countries. There are no food banks, food pantries, or government food-assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. There also are few or no local nonprofits dedicated to helping low-income households that experience food insecurity and the lack of access to other basic needs.
During these challenging times, while most U.S. households experience discomfort from higher prices at the grocery store, the world’s households in poverty suffer very low food security and its related, dire health outcomes.
Is There a Difference Between Food Insecurity and Hunger?
Hunger, though certainly a result of food insecurity, is different. It is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO as the uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by the inadequate consumption of sufficient dietary energy (calories).
Hunger becomes chronic when a person experiences inadequate consumption of sufficient dietary energy for an extended period of time. Hunger is also referred to as undernutrition.
How Many People Are Facing Hunger and Food Insecurity Around the World?
Between 2015 and 2020 the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger around the world was holding steady. But with the onset of the coronavirus, global household food security took a dramatic downward turn and hunger made an equally dramatic upswing.
According to the FAO latest annual report, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022, between 2019 and 2021 ...
- 150 million more people faced hunger, for a total of 828 million people lacking adequate food intake.
- The percent of the world’s population experiencing hunger sharply increased from 8% to 9.8%.
- 350 million more people experienced moderate or severe rates of food insecurity than pre-pandemic, for a total of 2.3 billion people (about 29.3% of the global population).
- 207 million more people faced severe food insecurity, increasing the total to nearly 924 million people (11.7% of the global population).