Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

The Responsibilisation of Food Security: What Is the Problem Represented to Be?

Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

The Responsibilisation of Food Security: What Is the Problem Represented to Be?

Article excerpt

Food security' is a concept that has grown in recent years. It has received increased attention following recent food price spikes in 2007-2008 (Bello & Baviera, 2009; MacMillan & Dowler, 2011). Food security has become a motif to circumscribe food deficits, for example: to describe the characteristics of individuals, families, and communities (Biggerstaff, Morris, & Nichols- Casebolt, 2002; Nolan, Williams, Rikard-Bell, & Mohsin, 2006); to explain the impact of location and transport to food outlets on food availability (Coveney & O'Dwyer, 2009; Daniel, Kestens, & Paquet, 2009); to critique global factors affecting food production (Magdoff & Tokar, 2009; Piesse & Thirtle, 2009); and to catastrophise the impact of resources like land, water, and energy on future food supplies (Khan & Hanjra, 2009; Koning et al., 2008). In short, food security has become a term heralding food crisis at the individual, community and national levels. Most commonly food security has been used by governments, non government organisations and academics to describe, monitor, analyse and intervene in a food system that has not met the needs of the world's population for sufficient food that is culturally appropriate, affordable, accessible and nutritious (MacMillan & Dowler, 2011). Its widespread use has led to a variety of meanings and there are around 200 definitions in published writings for the term food security, highlighting how the term can mean various things to different people (Maxwell & Smith, 1992).

Background

The concept of 'food security' originated from international discussions during the mid-1970s global food crisis. The initial focus of attention was primarily on food supply problems; of assuring the availability and to some degree the price stability of basic foodstuffs at the international and national level (Overseas Development Institute, 1997). This initial focus on food supply volume and sta- bility is reflected in the 1974 World Food Summit definition: 'availability at all times of adequate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices' (United Nations, 1975). In 1983 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) expanded its concept to include securing access by vulnerable people to available supplies, implying that attention should be balanced between the demand and supply side of the food security equation: 'ensuring that all peo- ple at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food that they need' (Food and Agriculture Organisation, 1983). This definition was revised in 1996 at the World Food Summit to include the individual and household level in addition to the regional and national level: 'food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life' (Food and Agriculture Organisation, 1996). This definition highlights four main dimensions of food security: physical availability of food; economic and physical access to food; individual utilisation of food; and stability of these factors over time. The 2009 World Food Summit reiterated this definition with the additional emphasis on the nutritional dimension as an integral concept of food security (Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2009). These evolving definitions of food security illustrate how the concept has moved from a con- cern for being able to feed the world's population appropriately into a focus on maintaining reserves and then later to concern for individual household food security (Shaw, 2007). The climate change aspect has made a more recent emergence into food security discourse (Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2009; MacMillan & Dowler, 2011). The emphasis on various aspects of food security illustrates how the issue is represented in different ways depending on the context. …

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