Food Security in the Developed World

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. – FAO

While issues of food insecurity are overwhelmingly found in developing nations, I’ve recently come across some interesting and surprising statistics on their prevalence and impact within developed nations such as the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

  • 14.5 % of US households were food insecure at some point in 2010 (1)
  • In 2009, 15.2 million US  households participated in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in an average month—up from 12.7 million in FY 2008. (2)
  • Access to food support from private and public sources has increased almost constantly over the past 10 years, with a significant jump between 2008 and 2009 – at the time of the Global Financial Crisis and the 2008 food price spike
  • The prevalence of food insecurity in Australia is estimated at 5% (3)
  • In 2008, the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables increased by 30% in the UK.  In 2005-2006, low income families were already spending around 15% of expenditure on food. (4)
This is not to downplay the food issues experience in developing nations, which are clearly much further reaching in terms of affected population (5).  It is to draw attention to the fact that poor nutrition and low food access is not some vague issue that is only experience in ‘other countries’ with no electricity and poor sanitation.  In the lands of the obese, there are still people who cannot gain access to, or who do not understand the importance of nutrition.  Food security isn’t simply about access to empty calories and that’s easy to forget in our world of industrial agriculture abundance.

3 thoughts on “Food Security in the Developed World

  1. That’s what I’m working on! We spent the last month surveying about 500 food insecure households around Australia about their experiences of food insecurity. I haven’t seen all the data yet but the ones I interviewed were in dire straits. A lot of them had no money for food because Centrelink payments don’t stretch far enough to cover all your living expenses – especially if you aren’t in government housing.

    The research is scheduled to be published in Anti-poverty week (maybe October?).

    • If you don’t mind my asking, did you find that these households were living beyond their means leading to the lack of resources to purchase food? Or was it simply a case of not enough money to cover all living expenses?

  2. The US may think of itself as the “greatest country on Earth”. But how great can a developed country be when nearly 6 million of its families need help to feed themselves?

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