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Over time, the food security concept has been broadened considerably to encompass a wide range of factors that can have an influence on malnutrition (of all forms) ranging across the whole food system and - in some applications - including recognition of the important social and cultural role that food plays.
The four components of food security and supporting elements.
Food availability: Enough nutritious food of sufficient quality needs to be available to people for their consumption. Availability can be affected by:
- Production: how much and what types of food are available through food that is produced and stored locally.
- Distribution: how is food made available (physically moved), in what form, when, and to whom.
- Exchange: how much of food that is available can be obtained through exchange mechanisms such as barter, trade, purchase, or loans.
- Afford-ability: the ability of individuals, households or communities to afford the price of food or land for producing food, relative to their incomes.
- Allocation: the economic, social and political mechanisms governing when, where, and how food can be accessed by consumers and on what terms. For example, food may be unequally allocated according to age and gender within households
- Nutritional value: the nutritional value provided by the foods that are consumed, as measured in calories, vitamins, protein, and various micro nutrients (e.g. iron, iodine, vitamin A).
- Health status: the effect of disease (e.g. HIV/AIDS or diarrhea) on the ability to consume the food and absorb and metabolize its nutrients.
- Food safety: access to food free from food spoilage or from toxic contamination introduction during the producing, processing, packaging, distribution or marketing of food; and from food-borne diseases such as salmonella.
- Preparation and consumption: the resources (e.g. cooking tools and fuel), knowledge and ability to prepare and consume food in a healthy and hygienic way.
Food access: Individuals and households must be able to acquire sufficient food to be able to eat a healthy, nutritious diet, or have access to sufficient resources needed to grow their own food (e.g. land). Access can be affected by:
Food utilization. People must have access to a sufficient quantity and diversity of foods to meet their nutritional needs but must also be able to eat and properly metabolize such food. Utilization can be affected by:
Stability: Food may be available and accessible to people who are able to utilize it effectively, but to avoid increases in malnutrition and in order for people not to feel insecure, this state of affairs needs to be enduring rather than temporary or subject to fluctuations.
Types of food insecurityChronic food insecurity. A long-term and persistent condition of food insecurity. A population suffers from chronic food insecurity when it is unable to meet minimum food consumption requirements for extended periods of time (approximately six months of the year or longer).
Transitory food insecurity. A short-term and temporary condition of food insecurity. A population suffers from transitory food insecurity when there is a sudden drop in the ability to produce or access sufficient food for a healthy nutritional status (e.g. after a period of drought or as a result of conflict).
Seasonal food insecurity. A condition of food insecurity that reoccurs predictably, following the cyclical pattern of seasons.