Published on September 28th, 2022 | by Kritika Gupta


Kritika Gupta: Food Security and Nutrition Security – How Are They Different?

If you are keeping up with the food security data and have already read the 2022 Food security report, you are probably also keen about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When several countries came together to pledge Zero Hunger by 2030, no one had anticipated factors like global wars, hurricanes, and the COVID-19 pandemic that only widened the gap between the state of hunger now and that in 2030. While some countries have seen slight reduction in rate of food security, we are far from establishing nutrition security globally.

But isn’t it the same? No. It’s a common error to use food security and nutrition security interchangeably. In fact, it wasn’t until the 2015 World Sustainable Development Summit, that I was a delegate at, that I realized how different the two terms are. Food security mostly focuses on its four pillars—food availability, food accessibility, food utilization, and food stability. With aiming for food security, we are aiming for a world where essentially all human beings have the food available in their environment and could purchase the same food. It is noteworthy that we have several ongoing efforts in the U.S. to reduce the rate of food insecurity, and these include community wide food banks, school meal programs, and efforts of nonprofits like Feeding America. However, all these food security efforts may or may not mean nutrition security.

So, what is nutrition security, and how is it different? Nutrition security aims that all individuals at all times have access to food in a way that essential nutrient requirements are met for individuals. Sometimes our immediate food environment checks all the boxes of an ideal food security definition. However, right quantity of food may not ensure right quality of food. Most food banks, for example, have ample amount of sugar, salt, flour, and canned goods, and do not carry fresh produce. Populations living below the federal poverty level are the most likely to utilize the services of a food bank, thus remaining nutritionally insecure. This does not help to reduce the incidences of food related diseases like obesity, and persistent deficiencies of various vitamins and minerals. Some nonprofits and community groups are working hard towards making nutritious foods available for at risk populations, but we have a long way to go. Companies, through their social corporate responsibility structures, try to do their part by donating money and food. However, it is important to consider the quality of food being made available to the populations that need it the most.

Are you actively serving on a community or nonprofit group working towards improving food security? Consider the difference between availability of food versus availability of nutritious food!

Dr. Kritika Gupta

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About the Author

Dr. Kritika Gupta holds Ph.D. in Nutrition. She currently works at the Center for Research Evaluation at the University of Mississippi. She is passionate about community-centered health promotion projects, health education projects, social determinants, and food insecurity research. Dr. Gupta gave TEDx talk "Resilience to Hunger" in 2020 and it is available on YouTube.

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