Food for Thought: Women and Food Insecurity

Although health experts often recommend having at least three well-rounded meals a day, an overwhelming number of people are unable to do so due to food insecurity. Defined as lacking access to enough nutritional food to promote “normal growth and development,” food insecurity is a challenge faced by at least 702 million people worldwide. In Thailand, more than half of “urban poor households” reported experiencing food insecurity. Moreover, even though populations with lower socioeconomic status are likelier to face this issue, it is not exclusive to them. In fact, a report by the World Bank found that there has been a global increase in food prices, affecting both low and high-income countries. 

Food Insecurity Today

The recent surge in “domestic food price inflation,” as this phenomenon is labeled, could be attributed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. Because both countries are major exporters of wheat and sunflower oil, the conflict disrupted global supply chains that consequently drove food prices up. In the past few years, however, the impact of COVID-19 has also forced numerous people to limit their food intake

What are the Impacts of Food Insecurity?

The obvious consequences of food insecurity are its effects on people’s health, especially that of children. A study found that “food-insecure children” have a higher chance of experiencing health issues such as “worse oral health,” asthma, and anemia. Stunted growth is also another risk that comes with severely restricted food intake. Just as alarmingly, food-insecure children are also more vulnerable to mental health struggles, ranging from anxiety and depression to suicidal thoughts, indicating the dangers of limited access to food.

The Link Between Gender and Food Security

One aspect of ensuring food security is often overlooked: women’s role in food production. Overall, almost half of the developing world’s agricultural production is operated by women, and “half of the world’s food production” is credited to women. Despite their significant role in this industry, women continue to face barriers due to their gender. For instance, women’s access to agricultural resources such as “small farm credit” is far less than that of men. Land ownership and inheritance are also dominated by men. Ultimately, women are restricted from accessing resources that will ensure the quality and overall success of their food production. 

In attempts to address food insecurity, there is also a lack of a gendered approach. For example, an examination of proposals to alleviate the hunger crisis triggered by the current pandemic found that almost half of them “do not refer to women and girls at all.” As a result, the impact of gender inequality on exacerbating food insecurity is often overlooked and limits efforts to resolve the matter. 

Research has shown, however, that empowering women in the agricultural sector, corresponds with greater “agricultural yield” and decreased hunger. Increasing women’s access to resources in this industry can be achieved by raising awareness of their land rights as well as amending laws to ensure that land inheritance is more equitable. It is therefore important to acknowledge the role that gender plays in aggravating the food insecurity crisis. In doing so, it provides more opportunities to address the issue effectively.

– Isabelle Amurao


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