The USDA says food security for a household “means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum (1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and (2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing or other coping strategies).”
Melaku Ayalew, an independent consultant on disaster management and food security in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, wrote that the stages of food insecurity range from food secure situations to full-scale famine.
“Famine and hunger are both rooted in food insecurity,” Ayalew wrote in an article, “What is Food Security and Famine and Hunger?” “Food insecurity can be categorized as either chronic or transitory. Chronic food insecurity translates into a high degree of vulnerability to famine and hunger; ensuring food security presupposes elimination of that vulnerability. [Chronic] hunger is not famine. It is similar to undernourishment and is related to poverty. [It exists] mainly in poor countries.”
And the United States isn’t immune to it. In 2005, the USDA reported that 11 percent of all Americans are “food insecure.” That means 12 million households — 35 million people, including 13 million children – are hungry or living on the edge of hunger. It also means they are too poor to eat balanced meals or they skipped meals because there was not enough money for food.
“I don’t think food professionals understand the strict definitions and they tend to lump a lot of meanings together,” says Ades, who is presenting “Lessons Learned from Planning for a Crisis” at the Summit. “That’s my perception. We are in crisis right now with 13 million kids in the United States being hungry. There is no reason for people to be hungry in this country. We are the wealthiest country in the world, why are people going hungry?”
While his forte is assisting food professionals to plan for crises, Ades believes that food insecurity needs to be addressed.
He noted an editorial by Julianne Malveaux – a writer for Progressive Media Project, an affiliate of The Progressive magazine – stating that allocating more money for food stamps and school breakfast and lunch programs would go a long way toward eliminating food insecurity.
Ades echoed Malveaux, suggesting that promoting ways to financially support food banks and other charitable organizations will ensure enough food is being supplied safely and to the right people.
“I don’t think the magnitude of hungry kids is really understood,” Ades says. “We need to take care of children. We need to figure out who needs [food] and how to get it to them. We should have a ready food supply for everybody in the United States.”
Such an effort, Malveaux says, does not seem to be a priority at a time when balancing the budget while fighting and funding the War on Terror take precedence. “[Bush] might note that both domestically and internationally, the fight to eradicate hunger has a direct bearing on our national security,” she wrote. “Hungry people do desperate things, often for small sums of money.”
It’s that type of desperation that is one of the greatest threats to not only food security, but to the economy, says Uriah Group’s Meriwether, who will present “Food Security: A Live Exercise Drill” at the Summit.
“We are still very susceptible. Food is the underpinning of the U.S. economy that has been ignored far too long. You need food to live, and if you take it away, you will create panic very quickly,” he says. “The terrorist don’t have to be the reason to take the economy to its knees.”