“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. The four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilization and stability.” Source: Food and Agriculture Organization, World Summit on Food Security 2009
The accessibility, affordability and sustainability of healthy food choices is essential for good health.
Food security is a matter of concern for the whole community. The issues of accessibility, affordability and sustainability of our food supply presents important challenges for the future. Food security is already a concern in low socioeconomic groups. But it is also becoming an issue at state, national and international levels.
At an individual level, food security affects people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing, including their dignity. The immediate (within-day) effects are anxiety, hunger and lack of energy. In the longer term people are more likely to be overweight or obese, or underweight. Source: Food for All evaluation report.
Certain groups in Victoria face difficulties accessing and affording healthy, nutritious food. Some rely on charitable food supplies, while others rely on cheap food that has low nutritional value. The 2008 Victorian Population Health Survey revealed that about 1 in 20 adult respondents reported they ran out food in the previous 12 months and could not afford to buy more.
At state and national levels there is growing recognition that threats resulting from climate change, competition for land and water, natural disasters and reduced agricultural productivity will have an impact on our food security.
VicHealth invests in developing further understanding of the barriers that prevent people from eating healthy food. In particular, VicHealth focuses on addressing systemic barriers, which are beyond the control of individuals and have a large impact on eating habits.
Local government work
VicHealth has worked to strengthen the role of local government authorities in promoting food security as a public health issue. This has been done through programs such as Food for all 2005–10 . Local governments play a key role in facilitating access to affordable, nutritious food that is culturally acceptable. Local government authorities play an important role in developing relevant, integrated and long-lasting strategies and solutions for food security and food systems issues.
Local action on food security is required on many fronts, including:
- making sure there are local sources of fresh fruit and vegetables at affordable prices
- ensuring that those living in poor-quality housing have access to food storage and cooking facilities
- improving food and cooking knowledge amongst disadvantaged groups
- improving transport options for those without a car
- increasing community awareness of the problem of food insecurity.