Food security measurement in cultural pluralism: Missing the point or conceptual misunderstanding?
Andre M.N. Renzaho, Ph.D.
*and David Mellor, Ph.D.
World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention and Related Research and Training, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
School of Psychology, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
Manuscript received November 30, 2008; accepted May 4, 2009.
Food Security has become a global concern, yet its measurement has varied considerablyacross disciplines and countries. We examined the current discrepancies in the deﬁnitions of foodsecurity and propose a framework for understanding and measuring food security.
This conceptual review draws from a range of works published in Medline and the grayliterature to advance the understanding of food security concepts. We begin by examining the histor-icalbackgroundoffoodsecurityandthenmoveontoexamineitsvariousdeﬁnitionsandinterpretfoodthrough cultural lenses in terms of food access and utilization. We ﬁnish by examining various mea-surements and indicators of food security and reviewing implications for public health.
Wearguethattherelianceoncopingstrategies assurrogatemeasurementsoffoodinsecuritywithout taking into account the social, cultural, and political contexts in which they occur is mislead-ing, and viewing food insecurity solely from a food access or availability perspective, without takinginto account food utilization and asset creation as pillars of food security, paints an incomplete picture.Although this review does not claim to provide solutions to the discrepancies in the conceptual deﬁ-nition of food security, it attempts to highlights areas of concern and provide a way forward.
When coping strategies are used as an indicator of food insecurity, they need to beculturallyrelevantandfocustested,andtogetherwithobjectivemeasurementsofnutritionaloutcomes,would allow policy makers to make evidence-based decisions to inform social and nutrition policies.
2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Food security; Coping strategies; Food access; Food utilization; Assets creation
Over the past three decades, Australia, like many devel-oped countries, has been experiencing dramatic demographictransformations as a result of the surge in the number of migrants[1,2]. Australia is internationally known to be oneof the most culturally and linguistically diverse countries inthe world: 30% of Australians are from a culturally and lin-guistically diverse (CALD) ancestry, and Australians fol-low more than 100 religious faiths and speak more than 150languages. A considerable proportion of Australian resi-dents born overseas come from countries recently affectedby war and political unrest. Thus, many newcomers are refu-gees and humanitarian entrants. This cultural pluralism ischaracteristic of many developed countries such as theUnited States of America, the United Kingdom, France,and many Nordic countries.Once in their host country, food insecurity is among themost pressing needs experienced by humanitarian entrants[5,6]. This is often exacerbated by their poor health andnutritional condition on arrival, postmigration food and eco-nomic stress, language difﬁculties, low self-esteem and men-tal health, and an array of cultural and religion-relatedbarriers such as male–female relations or prejudice and dis-crimination. However, studies measuring food securityamong humanitarian entrants to developed countries havemainly been biased toward food availability (supply) andaccess[8,9], and in most cases, the assessment of food secu-rityatthehouseholdlevel hasbeennarrowandbiasedtowardcoping strategies (e.g., help from relatives and friends or
2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.nut.2009.05.001Nutrition 26 (2010) 1–9www.nutritionjrnl.com