by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-security

Apr 21 2021

Let’s pay attention to nutrition security (as well as food security)

Dariush Mozaffarian (Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts), Sheila Fleischhacker (Georgetown University Law Center), and the chef, José R. Andrés, now of World Central Kitchen, propose to drop the term “food security” and replace it with “nutrition security.”

For decades, US policies to address hunger and food insecurity have focused largely on providing sufficient calories or quantities of food. However, effectively addressing the current diet-related challenges in the US will require a shift beyond these concepts to the broader concept of nutrition security. Addressing nutrition security, which can be defined as having consistent access, availability, and affordability of foods and beverages that promote well-being and prevent (and if needed, treat) disease, may be the next needed approach to inform clinical care and public policy.

Their point: it’s not enough to provide adequate calories to people who need food; those calories should come from foods that promote health.

…many policies and programs to address food security continue to place a greater emphasis on access to quantity, rather than quality, of food. The prevalence of obesity and diabetes is at an all-time high, with highest risk among individuals who are food insecure. Traditionally marginalized minority groups, as well as people living in rural and lower-income counties, are more likely to experience disparities in nutrition quality, food insecurity, and corresponding diet-related diseases. Clearly, the current approach is not sufficient.

And they recognize the need for “upstream” public policies to promote healthier diets:

An emphasis on nutrition security also could serve as a better guide for public health investments and national research, for which a growing coalition of antihunger, clinical, public health, and business groups recognizes the critical need for a stronger evidence base to accelerate food and nutrition solutions. From a societal standpoint, because poverty and food insecurity are closely associated, efforts must be made to reduce the level of poverty in the US.

This is a short editorial piece titled “Prioritizing Nutrition Security in the US.”

I’m for it.

Sep 23 2020

Hunger in America: The landscape in 2020

Before getting into the statistics, let’s start with the on-the-ground reality: real people, often with small children, are too poor to feed themselves and their families properly.  For the human impact of pandemic poverty, see:

Prior to the pandemic, poverty and food insecurity were declining in America.

But now we have pandemic-induced illness, job losses, school closures, business closures.

The USDA won’t report on food insecurity for another year, so it’s difficult to know what’s happening right now.  USDA data on SNAP are available only through April.

Even then, early signs were alarming.

We badly need effective policies to protect people against hunger.

Additional USDA resources

  • Food Security in the U.S.  Food security—access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life—is one requirement for a healthy, well-nourished population. ERS plays a leading role in Federal research on food security in U.S. households and communities.
  • Food Security in the United States: This product provides information about publicly available data from national surveys that include the U.S. Food Security Survey Module. Technical information is provided to facilitate appropriate use of the data, and links are provided to access data online or to order the data files on CD-ROM.
  • Statistical Supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2019: This supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2019 describes food insecurity and how it is assessed.

 

 

 

May 13 2020

Now is the time to strengthen SNAP

Yesterday, I mentioned the commentary in the New York Times—Americans Are Lining Up for Food. What Is Team Trump Doing?—calling on the USDA to expand SNAP rather that transfer responsibility for food assistance to private food banks.  No matter how good they are—and many do fabulous work—volunteer charitable agencies cannot keep up with assistance demands.

SNAP can.

SNAP, as I explained recently, is the last vestige of what used to be a much stronger safety net for the poor.  It is demonstrably effective in raising families out of poverty and reducing levels of food insecurity.

SNAP’s great strength is that it is an entitlement.  We have more than 30 million people newly unemployed in the United States.  Many of them will qualify for SNAP and are entitled to program benefits.

SNAP ought to command widespread bipartisan support, but the program is instead a flashpoint for political battles.

The reality of so many Americans running out of food is an alarming reminder of the economic hardship the pandemic has inflicted. But…Republicans have balked at a long-term expansion of food stamps — a core feature of the safety net that once enjoyed broad support but is now a source of a highly partisan divide. Democrats want to raise food stamp benefits by 15 percent for the duration of the economic crisis, arguing that a similar move during the Great Recession reduced hunger and helped the economy. But Republicans have fought for years to shrink the program, saying that the earlier liberalization led to enduring caseload growth and a backdoor expansion of the welfare state…The Republican distrust of food stamps has now collided with a monumental crisis. Cars outside food banks have lined up for miles in places as different as San Antonio, Pittsburgh and Miami Beach.

Anti-hunger groups make a strong case for a 15 percent increase.  Feeding America is running ads to promote SNAP, for example, this one targeting North Dakota

In the meantime, we have relief funds..

If history teaches us anything, it is that private charity can never replace government policy.  Now, more than ever, we need government for the people.

Oct 4 2017

Food security: a roundup of new reports: international and domestic

International

For the past few weeks I’ve been collecting reports on food security.  I’ve already posted the most recent report on worldwide trends (not good) from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Here are two more on global trends:

In an editorial triggered by the FAO report, The Lancet announces a major effort to address global food security:

In 2018, The Lancet will launch four food-related initiatives: the EAT-Lancet Commission, the LancetObesity Commission, a Series on health and agriculture, and a Series on the double burden of malnutrition. Each of these projects will reinforce a different aspect of the global call for equitable and sustainable provision of food to be a priority: recommending how policy makers approach food systems inclusive of health, cultural respect, agriculture, production, transport, trade, and retailing.

U.S. Domestic

In the meantime, food security remains a significant issue in the U.S., as indicated by this collection of recent reports, mostly from USDA:

Sep 28 2017

World food insecurity: moving in the wrong direction

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has just released its annual report on food security, country-by-country.

After years of decline, the new uptick is alarming.

Why is this happening?  In a word, conflict.

  • The number of conflicts is also on the rise.  Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, conflicts seriously affect food security and are a cause of much of the recent increase in food insecurity.
  • Conflict is a key driver of situations of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, while hunger and undernutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak.
  • Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be “business as usual”. It requires a conflict-sensitive approach that aligns actions for immediate humanitarian assistance, long-term development and sustaining peace.
Jan 16 2017

NASA’s food and agriculture program: request for proposals

Who knew that NASA was interested in food security and agriculture?  I certainly didn’t.  But I was recently sent this request for proposals.  No, they are not looking to grow food on spaceships or Mars.

But they are looking to use space technology to

ROSES-16 Amendment 53: Release of New Program Element A.51 Food Security and Agriculture.

NASA solicits proposals to enable and advance uses of Earth observations by domestic and international organizations to benefit food security and agriculture. Global food security represents a major societal challenge for the coming decades, and NASA recognizes that space-based Earth observations can provide key information to support the functioning and resilience of food systems.

NASA encourages that proposals involve a multisectoral, transdisciplinary team of organizations as a consortium to manage a program of activities to achieve the objectives. The scope includes applications development, user characterization and engagement, innovative communications work, and impact assessments as part of the activities.

The solicitation includes two elements: International Food Security and Domestic Agriculture.  Key objectives include:

  • Advance use of Earth observations for enhanced food security and improved agricultural practices, especially for humanitarian pursuits, economic progress, resilience, and sustainability;
  • Increase the adoption of Earth observations applications and broaden the suite of organizations routinely using them to inform decisions and actions;
  • Expand the number of applications developed, tested, and (if successful) adopted across sectors, decision types, and other meaningful factors;
  • Advance understanding of effective ways – both technically and programmatically – to enable sustained applications of Earth observations;
  • Enhance awareness within food security and agricultural communities of upcoming Earth observing satellite missions and encourage the community development of new applications;
  • Advance impact assessment techniques quantifying the benefits of Earth observations, increasing the number of examples and case studies across sectors and decision types;
  • Identify opportunities and topics for possible future investigations;
  • Advance communication of the benefits of Earth science and observations.

Notices of Intent to propose are requested by February 17, 2017, and proposals are due April 7, 2017.

Information about a preproposal conference from 2:30-4:00 pm eastern time on February 24, 2017, and later a Frequently Asked Questions document, will be posted on the NSPIRES web page for A.51 Earth Science Applications: Food Security and Agriculture. 

Questions concerning this program element may be directed to Brad Doorn at Bradley.Doorn@nasa.gov with “ROSES FS & Ag Inquiry” in the subject line or by contacting him via information listed in the summary table of key information.

Wouldn’t this be fun and fascinating to work on?  I’d love to!

 

Jul 10 2009

Worldwide food security (insecurity would be more like it)

The USDA has issued dismal new estimates of food security in70 developing countries.  Food insecurity means different things depending on where you are.  In the United States, food insecurity means the lack of a reliable source of adequate food.  In developing countries it means consuming less than an average of 2,100 calories a day.  The number of people in developing countries who are food insecure rose by 11% from 2007 to 2008 and is expected to rise even further in 2009.  This is the result of the economic downturn which, unsurprisingly, has worse effects on the poor than the rich.   This trend is not a good one.  Food insecurity is not only bad for health; it also leads to political instability.  That is why everyone has a stake in making sure that everyone has enough to eat.  The USDA report needs to lead to action.

[Posted from Anchorage]

Nov 15 2007

U.S. food “insecurity”: is 11% OK?

Since 1995, the USDA has done census surveys of the extent of food “insecurity”–the euphemism it uses for not having enough food to eat–in the U.S. population. USDA has just released the 2006 survey, which finds 10.9% of the population–including about half a million children–to be food insecure. This percentage is about the same as in previous years. About half of the food insecure population gets federal food assistance, Food Stamps, WIC, or others. What about the other half?