What Is Food Security?

Food security* means access by all members of a household at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.  At a minimum, food security includes:
  • The ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.
  • Assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).
Thus, Food Insecurity* is limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

*Definitions are from the Life Sciences Research Office, S.A. Andersen, ed., “Core Indicators of Nutritional State for Difficult to Sample Populations,” The Journal of Nutrition 120:1557S-1600S, 1990. 

 The chart below details the steps between complete Food Insecurity to complete Food Security, and is used by food banks, educators, and anti-hunger advocates to help explain the problem and give individuals a flowchart to become more food secure.
 
The Path to Food Security
DEPENDENCE:

Food
Insecure


 
Step 1

Eats exclusively at:
 
  • Soup Kitchens
  • Dining Halls
  • Emergency Shelters
Step 2
  • Occasionally eats at soup kitchens, dining halls and emergency shelters
  • May receive USDA surplus foods
  • Participates in Women, Infants & Children program (WIC)
  • Frequent recipient of food from pantries and supplemental programs
  • Eats at meal programs
  • Shops at grocery store with Food Stamps and limited cash
  • Children participate in Summer Youth Food Programs
  • Participates in Child and Adult Care Food Program (for free)
  • Eats at Elderly Nutrition sites
  • Receives home delivered meals 
  • Children participate in School Breakfast and Lunch Programs (for free)
Step 3
 
  • Shops at grocery store with Food Stamps and limited cash
  • May receive USDA surplus food
  • Participates in WIC program
  • Eats at meal programs (sporadic)
  • Sporadic recipient of food from pantries and supplemental programs
  • Children participate in Summer Youth Food Programs
  • Participates in Child and Adult Care Food programs (for free)
  • Eats at Elderly Nutrition sites
  • Receives home delivered meals 
  • Children participate in School Breakfast and Lunch Programs (for free)
  • Shops at neighborhood Farmers’ Market
 Step 4
  • May receive USDA surplus food
  • Participates in WIC program
  • Children participate in Summer Youth Food Programs
  • Participates in Child and Adult Care Food Programs (for a reduced fee)
  • Eats at Elderly Nutrition sites
  • Receives home delivered meals 
  • Children participate in School Breakfast and Lunch Programs (for a reduced fee)
  • Participates in food buying cooperative
  • Shops at neighborhood Farmers’ Market
  • Shops at grocery store with limited cash
 Step 5
  • Children participate in Summer Youth Food Programs
  • Eats at Elderly Nutrition site
  • Participates in Child and Adult Care Food Programs (for full fee)
  • Children participate in School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs (for full fee)
  • Participates in food buying cooperative
  • Shops at neighborhood Farmers’ Market
  • Participates in community gardens
  • Shops at grocery store with limited cash
INDEPENDENCE
 Step 6
  • Exercises food access options at will
  • Provides food for self, family & guests
  • Shops at grocery store
  • Cooks “from scratch”
  • Participates in food buying cooperatives
  • Shops at neighborhood Farmers’ Markets
  • Participates in community gardens
  • Children participate in School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs (for full fee)
INDEPENDENCE
 INDEPENDENCE:

Food
Secure