Beyond malnutrition: Food security means food supply

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Increasingly, the definition of 'food security' is expanding to refer to a secure food supply for all - not only the undernourished
Increasingly, the definition of 'food security' is expanding to refer to a secure food supply for all - not only the undernourished

Related tags: Food security, Malnutrition

Food security is not just about hunger and poverty – it must move into the mainstream as the challenge of feeding nine billion people comes into sharper focus, according to the European Commission.

Traditionally, the issue of food security has addressed hunger, poverty and humanitarian efforts, but as the world’s population looks set to reach nine billion at some point between 2030 and 2050, the conversation needs to shift, says a new report​ from the Commission’s Joint Research Council.

“Somehow, this has generated a conceptual divide between undernourished and nourished people whose problems have been addressed as independent from one another. The time has come to overcome this conventional approach and to look systemically at food security and its complex nature,”​ the report said.

“…By 2030 and beyond, food security will increasingly be considered as securing food supply in response to changing and growing global demand.”

Opportunity for EU innovation

Calling for better EU-wide coordination, it added that food security – in terms of making sure food is abundant and accessible – was not just a global challenge, but also “an opportunity for the EU to play a role in innovation, trade, health, wealth generation and geopolitics”.

The report’s authors developed a vision for food security in 2030, when they predict there will be a significantly lower number of undernourished people in the world. Numbers have been falling​ in recent years, to 795 million this year according to the FAO – 10m fewer than last year and 216m fewer than in 1990-92.

They expect this reduction to continue through increased consumer demand for more sustainable production, considerable improvements in agricultural systems, development of a food system that balances production and consumption on local, regional and global levels, and increased rural development.

Feeding the cities

Referring to the emergence of a more responsibly sourced, demand-driven food supply, the authors wrote: “This will be done through the empowerment of consumers who want better control of the nutritional aspects of what they eat and would like to contribute to sustainability issues worldwide. This trend will be reinforced by rapid urbanisation that will characterise the coming decades, with more than 60 % of the world’s population being concentrated in cities of varying sizes. Increasingly, feeding the world will mean feeding the cities.”

Increasingly food companies are building longer term sustainability issues into their business strategies, and this report is just the latest to urge laggards in the sector to pay attention to potential future supply problems. Earlier this week, an independent report​ from the Global Food Security programme said food companies needed to do more to safeguard their supply chains against ‘climate shocks’, such as drought, heatwave and floods.

The full European Commission report is available to download here (pdf).

Related topics: Nutrition, Supply chain, All Asia-Pacific

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