Feeding the World and the Continuing Problem of Food Insecurity
The objective of this study is to examine the best method of addressing the challenges of feeding the world and the continuing problem of food insecurity.
The work of Brown (2011) entitled "The New Geopolitics of Food" reports that wheat prices rose by 75% in the United States between 2010 and 2011. The U.N. Food Price Index is reported to have risen for eight consecutive months in 2011. Stated to be a more critical problem than the rising prices of food is the lost ability of the world to "soften the effect of shortages" of food. (Brown, 2010, p.2) Since 2007, the world's grain prices are reported to have doubled. (Brown, 2010, paraphrased) Farmers are under increasing pressu8re due to growth of the world's population. While the United States was at one time able to "act as a global buffer of sorts against poor harvests elsewhere" it is now reported to be "converting massive quantities of grain into fuel for cars, even as world grain consumption, which is already up to roughly 2.2 billion metric tons per year, is growing at an accelerating rate." (Brown, 2010, p.3) Because of this, the grain price has become associated with the price of oil and oil price rise results in the rise in grain prices as well. This means that if oil "goes to $150 per barrel or more, the price of grain will follow it upward as it becomes more profitable to convert gain into oil substitutes." (Brown, 2010, p.3-4)
I. Alternative Food Production and Distribution Systems
There is a need for alternative food production and distribution systems if the world's hungry are to be fed as the population grows and food prices continue to rise. Jensen (2010) reports that local and regional foods are held by various groups as being a means of effectively produce food for local individuals and that these food systems "generate economic development…in communities by encouraging 'buy local' campaigns and promoting local and regional entrepreneurship." (Jensen, 2010, p.2) In addition, local and regional food systems "connect local food with social justice issues and better public health outcomes related to food security." (Jensen, 2010, p.2) Local and regional food systems serve to address food safety issues associated with disease spread through large-scale agricultural production "by using the hysorter supply chains of regional production systems." (Jensen, 2010, p.2) The local and regional food systems additionally "build more sense of community by inviting social interaction around local farm markets and community decision making." (Jensen, 2010, p.2) The problem with many local food systems is that the food sources grown are influenced by variable factors of specific food demand in the community that may or may not be based on the best possible nutritional value. However, as noted in the work entitled "On the Ideology of Nutritionism" there has been implicit and explicit encouragement given by public health authorities, nutrition scientists and dieticians alike "to think about foods in terms of their nutrient composition, to make the connection between particular nutrients and bodily health, and to construct 'nutritionally balanced' diets on this basis." (Gyorgy Scrinis, n.d., p.1) It is reported that the Marion Nestle, in her book entitled "Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health" that there is a "central contradiction between nutrition theory and practice." ( p.1) According to the USDA documen6t entitled "A Primer on Community Food Systems: Linking Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture" that the food systems is inclusive of "…all processes involved in keeping us fed: growing, harvesting, processing (or transforming or changing), packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming and disposing of food and food packages. It also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each step." (2013, p.1) The USDA also states that the influences of the food system include the various environments in which it operates including the "social, political, economic, and natural environments." (2013, p.1)
II. Food System Types
The various types of terms utilized in describing the food system include: (1) the simple food system; (2) the complex food system; (3) the local food system; (4) the global food system; and (5) the regional food system. (USDA, 2013, p.1) The community food system is reported as a food system "in which food production, processing, distribution, and consumption are integrated to enhance the environmental, economic, social, and nutritional health of a particular place." (USDA, 2013, p.1) The community food system may be based in an area that is relatively small in nature including neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, regions, or bioregions. (USDA, 2013, paraphrased) The conception of the community food system is such that it is often used "interchangeably with local or regional food systems through inclusion of the word 'community'. (USDA, 2013, p.1) The USDA reports that the community food system has centric to its functional capacities the "emphasis on strengthening existing (or developing new) relationships between all components of the food system" stated to be a "prescriptive approach to building a food system, one that holds sustainability - economic, environmental and social - as a long-term goal toward which a community strives." (USDA, 2013, p.1) There are reported to be four distinguishing characteristics of community food systems: (1) food security; (2) proximity; (3) self-reliance; and (4) sustainability. (USDA, 2013, p.1) Each of these is defined by the USDA as follows:
(1) Food security -- This is stated as a primary goal of the community food system.
(2) Proximity -- This refers to the "distance between various components of the food system." (USDA, 2013, p.1)
(3) Self-reliance -- This refers to the "..degree to which a community meets its own food needs. While the aim of community food systems is not total self-sufficiency (where all food is produced, processed, marketed and consumed within a defined boundary), increasing the degree of self-reliance for food, to be determined by a community partnership, is an important aspect of a community food system." (USDA, 2013, p.1)
(4) Sustainability -- This refers to "the following agricultural and food systems practices that do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their food needs. Sustainability includes environmental protection, profitability, ethical treatment of food system workers, and community development. Sustainability of the food and agriculture system is increased when a diversified agriculture exists near strong and thriving markets, when non-renewable inputs required for every step in the food system are reduced, when farming systems rely less on agrichemical fertilization and pest control, and when citizen participation in food system decision-making is enhanced." (USDA, 2013, p.1)
III. Community Food System Goals
The goals of the community food system are such that required the following to occur simultaneously:
(1) Health that is optimal and reduced risk of acquiring chronic diseases related to ones' diet as well as increases in food enjoyment among members of the community.
(2) Changes in diet that is aligned to the "seasonal availability of food produced and processed by the local food and agricultural system." (USDA, 2013, p.1)
(3) All community members have improved access to a diet that is "adequate, affordable, and nutritious." (USDA, 2013, p.1)
(4) A family farm base that is stable and that utilize production practices that are integrated with bringing environmental quality enhancements.
(5) More direct links created by marketing channels and processing facilities between consumers and farmers and that shorten the distance between the two for food transportation.
(6) Food and agriculture related businesses in order to create strong community economies through creation of jobs, and financial capital recirculation in the community.
(7) Higher levels of participation by the public in formation of food and agriculture policies that serve to promote and support produ8ction of food as well as access to retail and local processing markets as well as institutional procurement of agricultural commodities that are locally produced. (USDA,…