Tufts and Georgetown scientists, and humanitarian José Andrés, call for a new approach to address food and nutrition inequities . In the 1960s, a national focus on hunger was essential to address major problems of undernutrition after World War II. In the 1990s, the nation shifted away from hunger toward “food insecurity” to better capture and address the challenges of food access and affordability. Now, a new Viewpoint article argues that today’s health and equity challenges call for the U.S. to shift from “food insecurity” to “nutrition insecurity” in order to catalyze appropriate focus and policies on access not just to food but to healthy, nourishing food.
The Viewpoint, by Dariush Mozaffarian of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, Sheila Fleischhacker of Georgetown Law School, and José Andrés of World Central Kitchen, was published online in JAMA this week. The concept of food security focuses on access to and affordability of food that is safe, nutritious, and consistent with personal preferences. In reality, however, the “nutritious” part often has been overlooked or lost in national policies and solutions, with resulting emphasis on quantity, rather than quality, of food, say the authors.
The authors define nutrition security as having consistent access to and availability and affordability of foods and beverages that promote well-being, while preventing — and, if needed, treating — disease. Nutrition security provides a more inclusive view that recognizes that foods must nourish all people. “The current approach is not sufficient,” the authors write, and “traditionally marginalized minority groups as well as people living in rural and lower-income counties are most likely to experience disparities in nutrition quality, food insecurity, and corresponding diet-related diseases.”