Most simply, food insecurity is a lack of the financial resources needed to ensure reliable access to food to meet dietary, nutritional, and social needs. It can be acute, transitory, or chronic, and ranges in severity from worry about not being able to secure enough food to going whole days without eating.
How do people experience food insecurity?
Over three decades of research on this topic has shown that people in different countries experience food insecurity in similar ways. These include running out of food, feeling anxiety about food supplies, relying on low-cost foods, changing diet patterns, skipping meals, and going without food.
These are core experiences that are used in the measurement and monitoring of food insecurity in households and among individuals. But food insecurity can manifest in additional ways as well. For some, it might also mean seeking out charitable sources of food because there is no money available. For others, it might mean skipping out on social activities that feature food, such as not having friends over for a meal. These items were not included in measurement modules because they did not consistently track with core indicators of food insecurity in the population, meaning they occur at different rates for different people and at varying levels of severity of food insecurity.
It is also important to highlight that some research suggests children, adolescents, and older people might experience food insecurity in different ways, and that different members of the same household can also experience it different ways. These are important experiences to capture in qualitative research.