Food insecurity and hunger in rich countries: it is time for action against inequality

Christina M. Pollard, Sue Booth

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

85 Citations (Scopus)
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Household food insecurity is a serious public health concern in rich countries with developed economies closely associated with inequality. The prevalence of household food insecurity is relatively high in some developed countries, ranging from 8 to 20% of the population. Human rights approaches have the potential to address the structural causes, not just the symptoms of food insecurity. Despite most developed countries ratifying the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights over 40 years ago, food insecurity rates suggest current social protections are inadequate. The contemporary framing of the solution to food insecurity in developed countries is that of diverting food waste to the hungry to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals agenda (Goals 2 and 12.3). An estimated 60 million people or 7.2% of the population in high income countries used food banks in 2013. Although providing food assistance to those who are hungry is an important strategy, the current focus distracts attention away from the ineffectiveness of government policies in addressing the social determinants of food insecurity. Much of the action needed to improve household food security falls to actors outside the health sector. There is evidence of promising actions to address the social determinants of food insecurity in some developed countries. Learning from these, there is a strong case for government leadership, for action within and across government, and effective engagement with other sectors to deliver a coordinated, collaborative, and cooperative response to finding pathways out of food insecurity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1804
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2019

Bibliographical note

'This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited '


  • Developed countries
  • Food banks
  • Food insecurity
  • Hunger
  • Inequality
  • Social determinants
  • Sustainable Development Goals


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