Food Security Crisis in a Pandemic.

Do you have an idea of the levels of shortage of food essentials we might face caused by a global lockdown? How are food production and consumption supply chains affected in a pandemic crisis? Could it get so bad as to even threaten survival?


First and foremost, there are a few terms that one must know.


Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it. Affordability is also one of the factors that can affect food availability.



Image Courtesy dreamline.com

Food Security in a community depends on three main pillars:

  • Food availability

  • Food access

  • Food utilization

Food access means that individuals can obtain available food. Households may access food in many ways: growing, buying, and bartering; or through gifts, welfare programs, or food aid. Food access is at healthy levels when people have enough resources, like land, money, or social connections, to obtain nutritious foods in adequate amounts.


Food utilization indicates the efficient use of food supply. Making the best use of meals depends on the need, proper food storage and processing, overall nutrition and health status, the availability of clean drinking water, and adequate health and sanitation services.



Image courtesy from today.duke.edu

Signs that a Pandemic has affected Food Security.


The global health impact of an pandemic, like the Spanish flu pandemic or the H1N1 pandemic, may affect workforces, transportation systems, and food supply chains. The impact of the virus spreading through the human to human transitions which calls for preventive actions may result in a community experiencing an acute food crisis even before the virus causes severe health problems in the municipality. Some of the conditions that will exacerbate food security problems:

  • Food supplies are hard to get locally.

  • Economic activities are disrupted.

  • Industries that rely on imports and exports are disrupted.

  • Agriculture, farming mainly during the harvest period are majorly affected.


How has the COVID-19 harm food security?


Closed borders, self quarantines measures, and trade disruptions could restrict people’s access to sufficient/diverse and nutritious sources of food, especially in countries hit hard by the virus or already affected by high levels of food insecurity.


As the virus spreads, cases increase, and measures tighten. There are a host of problems that will afflict the global food system which will be tested and strained in the coming weeks and months.


  • As of now, disruptions are minimal as food supply has been adequate, and markets have been stable. However, we see challenges in terms of logistics bottlenecks (not being able to move food from point A to point B), and likely, there is less of high-value commodities (i.e., fruits and vegetables) being produced.

  • In the coming months, we can expect increasing disruptions in the food supply chains. For example, restriction of movement, as well as understandable risk-averse tendencies in workers, may impede farmers from farming and food processors — who handle the vast majority of agricultural products. The shortage of fertilizers, veterinary medicines, and other aided could affect agricultural production. Closures of restaurants and decreasing tendency towards grocery shopping diminish demand for fresh produce and fisheries products, affecting producers and suppliers.

Mr. Arif Hussain from the World Food Programme economist, explains, “What is sure is that an economic downturn is expected at the global level and that this is likely to trickle down to developing economies. In these contexts, a slowdown in the economy can exacerbate existing food insecurity. It limits people’s ability to access nutritious food in different ways, chief among them, reduced income or increased job insecurity”. He also states that the economic consequences of this disease could end up hurting more people than the disease itself.

  • There is a significant loss of purchasing power caused by the disease that could change people’s eating patterns, resulting in higher inadequacy of nutrition. Panic purchases of food — — could break the supply chain and cause localized price hikes.

“The economic consequences of this disease could end up hurting more people than the disease itself.”


  • The result of economic pressures can cause those in lower-income countries to increase labor-intensive production, aggravating the repercussions of the pandemic and setting in motion a vicious cycle.

  • Developing countries and underdeveloped countries which rely wholly on the imports for the food and exports of primary commodities may suffer increased prices on food imports and reduced capability as well as demand for exports.


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Who might be the most at risk for food security problems?

In any scenario, the most affected will be the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population (including migrants, the displaced, and those hit by conflict). The most at-risk people in most emergencies are those that are already struggling with hunger, health, and poverty. These populations will be at high risk during a severe pandemic.

Groups that pose a risk at every emergency.

  • People with limited or irregular income

  • People who cannot build up emergency reserves of money or food

  • People in poor health (especially malnutrition, chronic disease, and compromised immune systems)

  • Those living with stigma (people living with HIV, prisoners and their families, the mentally ill, the disabled)

  • The isolated (living in a remote location or having no social network)

• The homeless or internally displaced

  • The elderly who live alone poses more risk.

• Those with little or no transportation

  • Orphans and vulnerable children who have no source of adequate nutrition and food.

  • I would like to include even the pets- cats, dogs, cows, rats, and crows.

Groups that pose higher chances of risk during a Pandemic.

  • Those who rely on markets for the majority of food purchases (experts believe that market systems can be severely impacted)

  • People without knowledge about how to prepare for a pandemic

  • Those employed in occupations that can be severely impacted (tourism, restaurants, taxi drivers, etc.)

  • People who rely on public transportation to get to job

  • People who migrate for income

  • Caregivers.

  • Pregnant women.

  • Farmers, harvesters, and distributors.

(Ref: Classification of Food Security Risk Locations and Tool 9, Identification of People Most at Risk of Food Insecurity.)


Potential Food Security Issues during a Pandemic.


Food Availability Issues


Partial information courtesy from www.fao.org, www.pho.org

Food Access Issues



Partial information courtesy from www.fao.org, www.pho.org


Food Utilization Issues



Partial information courtesy from www.fao.org, www.pho.org

Food Availability, Accessibility, and Utilization are interlinked and go hand-in-hand. Everybody must be aware of the consequences. During this tiring period, educated people must be knowledgeable and come forward to help people in need. Panicking and spreading rumors will only cause more danger to us and others who are indirectly involved. State Govt. Municipal must come up with different schemes to people in need and to prevent the surge of poverty and malnutrition in the community. Both pandemic and it’s fallout obliges careful measures of both the people involved and the governments.


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