Although the definition of food security has varied considerably over the years and stakeholders still debate specific terminology, the following definition of food security has been used for the purposes of this study:
Food security [is] a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Household food security is the application of this concept to the family level, with individuals within households as the focus of concern. Food insecurity exists when people do not have adequate physical, social or economic access to food as defined above.
Food security can be broken down into the following components, as explained largely in the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) own words:
Food availability is the availability of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality, supplied through domestic production or imports (including food aid). Food availability addresses the “supply side” of food security and is determined by the level of food production, stock levels and net trade.
Food access means access by individuals to adequate resources (entitlements) for acquiring appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. Entitlements are defined as the set of all commodity bundles over which a person can establish command given the legal, political, economic and social arrangements of the community in which they live (including traditional rights such as access to common resources).
Stability means that a population, household or individual has access to adequate food at all times. They should reduce their risk of losing access to food as a consequence of sudden shocks (e.g. an economic or climatic crisis) or cyclical events (e.g. seasonal food insecurity).
Utilization of food is optimized through a combination of adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care in order to reach a state of nutritional well-being where all physiological needs are met. Sufficient energy and nutrient intake by individuals is the result of good care and feeding practices, and it is especially important for infants and young children. For the broader household, food preparation, diversity of the diet and intra-household distribution of food are also important.