Food security has long been framed by the following question: How do we grow enough food to feed a population of 9 billion by 2050?1
Who are “we” and who are the 9 billion?
I think it’s of the utmost importance to analyze who is supposed to be growing enough food and whom it is intended to feed. The rhetoric of “we” and “them” runs the risk of inducing a logic of othering that alienates humanity from itself, often through racial, economic, and nationalist differences. In the search for solutions to global problems, “we” always seems to be burdened with finding the solutions to the problems with “them,” framing the power dynamics between the two parties as unequal.
Often times, “we” are Western, developed nations, or the Global North. “They” are often construed as the Global South.2
Thus, when there are conversations about solving world hunger through the goal of “food security,” the problematic power dynamic is often ignored between “we” and “them.”3 Accordingly, I think we, as the Global North, who seek to help alleviate world hunger should be extremely aware of our position and its boundaries as well as reflect critically on the long-term implications of our actions.
“Food security” was defined at the 1996 World Food Summit as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.4 However, how we achieve the goal of food security is not clearly prescribed.
On the other hand, the term “food sovereignty,” encompasses both the means and the end. Popularized by the international peasant movement Via Campesina, food sovereignty emphasizes food as a human right, not a commodity.5 It also asserts food as a sacred relationship between people, land, history, and culture. It prioritizes self-determination: people should have agency in the foods they produce, distribute, and consume. In this way, food sovereignty is the democratic path to food security, a means to the end that affects not only the hungry, but everyone. It seeks to re-appropriate power to the poorest, most marginalized people of our society (and ironically, those who happen to be closest to the production of food): people of color and women.
Thus food sovereignty is more than about solving hunger, although it is certainly included; it's about equalizing the power dynamics between “we” and “them.”
About the Author:
Diana Fu is a rising junior at Northwestern University double majoring in Environmental Science and Asian American Studies. She is a passionate advocate for safe, healthy, and culturally-appropriate food for marginalized people domestically and abroad, and believes in the right of self-determination for all people in choosing and shaping their food systems.
1. Feeding 9 Billion. National Geographic. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/feeding-9-billion/
2. Royal Geographical Society. https://www.rgs.org/NR/rdonlyres/6AFE1B7F-9141-472A-95C1-52AA291AA679/0/60sGlobalNorthSouthDivide.pdf
3. Global Food Challenge, Land O’Lakes.
4. World Health Organization (WHO). http://www.who.int/trade/glossary/story028/en/
5. What is Food Sovereignty. http://foodsecurecanada.org/who-we-are/what-food-sovereignty