What is Food Security?

NutritionSocial issues

Notes to broadcasters

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According to the Rome Declaration on World Food Security announced at the World Food Summit in 1996, “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” The following script is based on a contribution by the Caribbean Network for Integrated Rural Development and introduces different aspects of food security based on an interview with an advisor from the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute.

In your radio programs you can help farmers become more aware of their important role in safeguarding food security for themselves and their communities. When growing for local markets, farmers may benefit if they consider local dietary needs and food preferences. In some cases they might choose to grow traditional or indigenous crops which are often nutritious, acceptable to the community, and important for cultural reasons.

To ensure food security in their own households, farmers can choose strategies that ensure continuous access to a variety of nutritious foods. For example they can grow a variety of home garden foods year round. A well-developed home garden has the potential (when access to land and water is not a major limitation) to supply most of the non-staple foods and some of the staple foods that a family needs every day of the year. In addition, farmers and gardeners can process, preserve and use techniques to store foods for year-round access.

It’s also important to remember that although food security is necessary for adequate dietary intake, having food security does not always mean that people are well nourished. Parents and other caregivers need to know the nutritional needs of different family members. This knowledge helps the parent or caretaker decide what foods and how much of these foods to prepare and serve their families. For example, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life is the best form of food security for infants. Also, undernutrition – especially in children – is the result of poor food intake coupled with infection. So it is essential to protect children from illness such as diarrhea through the provision of safe water and good hygiene.

The following script is a feature story written in a format to be shared by two co-hosts, but which could also be read by one host.


Host 1:
On today’s program we’d like to take a look at the issue of food security. What does the term food security mean? You might think that it means having a stock pile of food for emergencies.

Host 2:
Well, think again. Food security means a lot more than just stock piling food. We recently received some information from the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute that sheds some interesting light on the subject. So we thought we’d share it with you today.

Host 1:
Most of us think that food security is something for the government to be concerned with. But food security is not only a government matter. Dr. Curtis MacIntosh is an Advisor in Food Economics at the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute. He says that everyone has a responsibility to ensure food security. And that means all of us – from policy makers, to producers and sellers, as well as consumers.

Host 2:
Dr. MacIntosh says food security means that all people at all times have access to safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy, active life. This may sound idealistic, given the problems we face, but it can be done.

Host 1:
That’s right. In fact, in general, this is the situation in much of the Caribbean. There are some areas in which not all households have access to food, but at the national level there is food sufficient to feed the peoples of the Caribbean.

Host 2:
But we need more than adequate food supplies. Access to food is also necessary. And access will depend on whether we can afford the food, whether we are located close to sources of food, and other factors, am I correct?

Host 1:
Yes, that’s right. Dr. MacIntosh points out that you could, for example, have sufficient food at the national level and still have a number of households that do not have access to food. Why don’t they have access to food? Because they don’t have enough income, or they don’t have enough land to produce their own food.

Host 2:
So the concept of food security incorporates a number of factors.

Host 1:
Yes, Dr. MacIntosh says there are five important factors every country needs to ensure its food security.

Number one: food must be available in the country or region.
Second: the amount of food that is available must be affordable to people.
Number three: food that is available must be nutritionally adequate.
Number four: the food should be available on a continuing basis.
And finally, of course, the food should be acceptable to the tastes of the local population.

Host 1:
And that’s food for thought. Thanks for listening, I’m (name of host).

Host 2:
And I’m _____________.


Adapted from an interview with Dr. Curtis MacIntosh, Advisor in Food Economics at the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute, broadcast by the Caribbean Network for Integrated Rural Development, 40 Eastern Main Road, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies. E-mail cnird@carib-link.net Reviewed by Barbara Macdonald, Senior Nutrition Advisor, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Information sources

The full text of the Rome Declaration on World Food Security

Portions of ‘Notes to broadcaster’ are adapted from Improving nutrition through home gardening: a training package for preparing field workers in Africa, 2001. Nutrition Programmes Service, Food and Nutrition Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.