Ola Westengen & Dan Banik: The State of Food Security: From Availability, Access and Rights to Food Systems Approaches

In Forum for Development Studies, 2016.

Forum for development studies


Ola Tveitereid Westengen and Dan Banik


Food security is a concept that features high on the development agenda. The meaning of the concept has evolved considerably over its 40 years' history in policy, practice and scholarly debate. Our focus in this essay is on three sets of interrelated issues. First, we critically examine the academic food security discourse from a historical perspective – from an initial focus on resource scarcity and availability to a multifaceted social framing – and discuss some of the key factors behind the shift in academic thinking and policy focus on the topic. We contend that the food price hike in 2007 and the increased focus on the projected negative effects of climate change have paved the way for a return of a biophysical framing with an emphasis on food production. Second, taking a starting point in a Norwegian government policy document, we explore how policy discourses on food security are currently framed in relation to the historical discourse. We argue that while the prevailing biophysical framing of food security may occur at the cost of other aspects of food security, it nonetheless presents opportunities for a better integration of social and environmental drivers and outcomes of food security. Third, in place of the fragmented nature of current practice, we discuss the potential of adopting a food systems approach as a promising frontier in food security research, policy and practice.

Published Mar. 16, 2016 8:00 AM