Food Insecurity: Why does it exist?

There isn’t a country in the world where some portion of the individuals are not effected by food insecurity. This includes such countries as the United States, China, and Japan, which are the three highest ranked countries based on GDP, respectively, and Tonga, Kiribati, and Tuvalu which have some of the lowest GDP’s in the world. While it may be obvious as to why food insecurity exists in countries that have very low economic resources, but why does the United States have a population where almost 15% of the individuals are food insecure? Shouldn’t it be possible to provide everyone with an adequate diet?

There are two possible situations where food insecurity can be present. Before discussing the, let’s consider the following scenario:

For this example, let’s pretend like there are ten people that are seated at a table to eat dinner. The kitchen has prepared ten meals, so, in theory, there would be enough for every person to have on meal and go home full. However, the wait staff gives the first person seated at the table four meals, the next person three meals, two¬† meals to the next person, and the next person at the table gets the one remaining meal. This leaves six people at the table that will not be getting dinner that night and will not go home hungry. The first people cannot possibly eat four full meals, but instead of sharing with the people that did not receive dinner, they throw the extra meals away.

Next door, there are another ten people seated at a table to eat dinner. In this case, however, the kitchen has only prepared three meals. The wait staff gives the first person at the dinner table one meal, and then, in an effort to feed everyone, splits the remaining three meals in half and gives the next six people half of one meal. This leaves six people that have received a small amount of food, and the remaining three people not receiving any food.

In the first story, enough food and resources exist for everyone to acquire enough food, but resources are not be distributed in a method that promotes this, instead, there is a lot of food waste on one end of the spectrum, while the other end goes hungry. This story sums up food insecurity in the United States: if we could figure out a better food distribution system, possibly we could end food insecurity in our country. This would include eliminating food deserts, making food available at a cost that is affordable to everyone, and drastically decreasing food waste.

The second scenario describes poorer countries and countries that are possibly experiencing famine. No matter how the country’s resources and food are distributed and shared, people are still going to be hungry. There is simply not enough food to go around.

So, ending food insecurity is going to be a complicated process, in part because there are so many different types of food insecurity that must be addressed. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Everyone deserves to have access to healthy and affordable food, and it is our responsibility to ensure that this occurs.