What does food security mean

Food security and resilience

Food security is given when all people have physical and economic access to sufficient and safe food at all times and dietary needs and preferences for a healthy and active life can be ensured. (Original English: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.)

This definition has four dimensions:

  • Availability
  • Access
  • use
  • stability

The first two elements concern the actual availability of food as well as physical and monetary access to it. In this context, production-related aspects such as agronomic potential, investments in infrastructure and breeding play an important role. Other important influencing factors are global drivers such as population growth and global trade as well as general economic and technological developments.

The third element, the use of food, includes on the one hand aspects such as quality, safety and the handling of food waste and losses, but also the amount of agricultural products that are used as energy sources or in plastics.

The last element relates to the stability of the food system. From a short-term perspective, on the one hand, it is about the political, institutional and economic framework conditions that promote investments and innovations. On the other hand, the condition of natural resources and the influence of various environmental factors, such as climate change, soil quality or plant diseases, play a role. They all affect the long-term potential and resilience of the food system.

Resilience of the food system:
At its core, resilience is about how a system reacts to or can deal with disruptions. The question is whether the system is able to withstand impairments.

Against this background, resilience can be understood in the broadest sense as the dynamic ability that given goals must be achieved despite disruptions and shocks. So it's about maintaining the system and its outputs in the long term.

Tendall and her colleagues combine food security and resilience in their definition. Resilient food systems and all their elements along the value chain have the ability to provide sufficient, adequate and accessible food despite various, unpredictable disruptions. The main thing is that a resilient nutritional system is robust against disruptions, can recover flexibly and quickly and can adjust to changing conditions as well as possible.