Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.
Only in the midst of the worldwide food crisis in the mid-1970s did the idea of food security emerge as a concept. At first, the primary priority was on ensuring international and national availability and, to some extent, price stability of basic foodstuffs.
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 focuses on ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. The SDG 2 and related targets comprehensively deal with issues of food production, distribution and access as well as nutrition of people of all age groups, gender and social categories, supported by sustainable agriculture and are intrinsically linked to other SDGs.
Climate change, population growth, rising food prices, and environmental stresses are all expected to have a substantial impact on food security in the next decades. In the face of global climate change, we urgently require policies and strategies to deal with issues such as water allocation and land use patterns as well as food trade, postharvest processing, food prices, and food safety.
India and Food Security
India is one of the few nations to have experimented with a wide range of food security initiatives. It has already made great progress in eradicating temporary food insecurity by putting emphasis on self-sufficiency in foodgrains and by procuring and distributing foodgrains to the public, implementing employment programmes, etc. Despite a dramatic drop in the prevalence of poverty, a large proportion of India's population continues to experience chronic food insecurity.
.It is not food availability that is limited, but rather food distribution.
Consideration of food security necessitates going beyond food availability and taking into account the low earnings of the poor. It is also important to recognize the choices that households and regions face, including exploitation of natural resources when incomes fall short. Substantial human resources are wasted due to malnutrition related diseases.
Public Distribution System
The public distribution system (PDS) is an Indian food security system that is administered by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution. PDS developed as a mechanism for addressing the issue of food security by distributing food grains at affordable prices. The PDS is jointly administered by the Central and State Governments.
The Central Government buys food grains at MSP through the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and has assumed the responsibility for procurement, storage, transportation and bulk allocation of food grains to the State Governments. State governments are responsible for operational tasks such as distribution within the State, identification of eligible households, issuance of Ration Cards, and monitoring of the operation of Fair Price Shops (FPSs), among others, co-ordinating the entire supply process from FCI godowns to beneficiaries, and monitoring PDS activities. Fair pricing shops (FPSs) that operate under the PDS are critical nodes because beneficiaries buy subsidised PDS commodities via the FPS.
The FCI purchases food grains from farmers at the minimum support price (MSP) and issues food grain at a uniform central issue price (CIP) to all states.
National Food Security Act, 2013
The National Food Security Act, which was notified in 2013, marks a watershed moment in the history of India's food security policy. It is a shift from a welfare-based to a rights-based approach. The legislation confers a legal right on beneficiaries to obtain entitled quantities of food grains at highly subsidised prices. It also extended legal rights to women and children and other unprivileged groups including the destitute, homeless, disaster- and emergency-affected people living in starvation for free meals or meals at an affordable price.
The National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture
Together with other missions under theNational Action Plan on Climate Change, strives to implement adaptation strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change and sustain agricultural productivity. The adaptation measures focus on 10 key dimensions, i.e. improved crop seeds; livestock and fish cultures; water use efficiency; pest management; improved farm practices; nutrient management; agricultural insurance and credit support; markets; access to information; and livelihood diversification.
While India was successful in tackling temporary food insecurity caused by droughts or floods, it failed miserably to make a meaningful difference in chronic food insecurity, as evidenced by poor calorie intake and high rates of malnutrition. The improvement in nutritional status as a whole has likewise been quite gradual. About half of the population suffers from chronic undernourishment, notably children, women, and the elderly from the bottom half of the expenditure class.
As a result several types of programmes need to be targeted exclusively to the poor aimed to (i) eliminating transient food insecurity on account of inadequate access to food in periods of crises (ii) reducing chronic food insecurity by enhancing their capabilities to participate in the growth process (iii) reducing malnutrition among pre-school children and women and (iv) improving basic services (safe drinking water, health care etc.) to the poor. The portfolio of portfolio of poverty alleviation programmes (PAP)s should be contextual and suit the specific needs of the poor communities. Socially excluded groups are highly heterogeneous and, therefore, poverty reducing effects of any intervention based on a uniform package of programmes would be weak.
Improving food consumption is a necessary but not sufficient condition for overcoming India's malnutrition problem. Aside from insufficient food consumption, other important causes of malnutrition include a high incidence of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections, as well as behavioural factors such as improper child feeding and weaning practises, all of which contribute to poor nutrient absorption. Economic growth, left to itself, may not have a dramatic impact on nutritional status in the near future, although it provides greater opportunities for public intervention. Food and environmental interventions that are effective and efficient are required until all citizens are adequately fed.