Food Security in India - Issues and Challenges
Authors: Priyanka Singh

Food security, along with poverty eradication and ecological conservation, is one of the most significant elements of the millennium development goals. The thought of food security is delineated as that take account of both physical and economic admittance to food that congregate people's dietary needs as well as their food predilection (FAO, 2009). Food security exists “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life” (The World Food Summit, 1996).Food Security is pedestal on three essential pillars of availability, access and utilization, food availability on a consistent basis, food access for appropriate nutritious diet and food utilization for basic nutrition and care as well as adequate water and sanitation.


Despite having the era of rapid economic growth in India since 1990s there has been persistence of malnutrition. India faces today what is known as the triple burden of malnutrition—the coexistence of inadequate calorie intake and under-nutrition among a large section of the population, excess intake of dietary energy leading to obesity and related health issues among another section of the population, and pervasive micronutrient deficiencies. The prevalence of under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies among vast numbers of people despite impressive economic growth remains among the most important challenges for policy-makers. Under-nutrition is a consequence of a multiplicity of factors but food security is the most important among all of them. Food security is characterised as: ‘a situation 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’ (Food and Agriculture Organization 2002 ). This understanding of food security incorporates the idea that access to food includes not just physical availability and affordability, but also requires that individuals do not face social barriers in feeding themselves.


The crux of India's food problem today pertains not so much on increasing food availability or production but with the distribution of food. Despite the large increase in production, access to food continues to be a serious issue especially in the context of extraordinarily high-inflation rates in food commodities in recent years and limited access in large parts of the country to high-quality diets. The imperative that the challenge of food security derives also from recent evidence from India and elsewhere suggests that income growth might not always translate fully or quickly enough to improvements in the health nutritional status of children, implying that this issue needs attention (Haddad et al. 2002 ; Block et al. 2012 ; Coffey et al. 2014 ). This weak link between income growth and nutritional outcomes implied that food security in the sense defined earlier would require special attention of policy-makers.

National Food Security Act

To further strengthen the efforts to address the food security of the people, the Government has enacted the National Food Security Act, 2013. It marks a paradigm shift in approach to food security – from a welfare to rights based approach. The Act legally entitles upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System. About two thirds of the population therefore will be covered under the Act to receive highly subsidised foodgrains. Under the provisions of the bill, beneficiaries are to be able to purchase 5 kg per eligible person per month of 75 per cent of rural and 50 per cent of the urban population are entitled for 3 years from enactment to 5 kg food grains per month at 3, 2, 1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains (millet), respectively. There is a special focus in the Act on nutritional support to pregnant women and lactating mothers and children upto 14 years of age by entitling them to nutritious meals. Pregnant women will also be entitled to receive cash maternity benefit of Rs. 6, 000 in order to partly compensate her for the wage loss during the period of pregnancy and also to supplement nutrition. Keeping in view the important role that women play in ensuring food security of the family, the Act contains an important provision for women empowerment by giving status of head of the household to the eldest woman of the household, for the purpose of issuing of ration cards.


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2. Coffey D, Chattopaaadhyav A, Gupt R (2014) Wealth and Health of Children in India: A State level Analysis. Economic & Political Weekly, April 12, 49(15), 64-70.
3. Food and Agriculture Organization (2002) The State of Food Insecurity in The World 2001. FAO, Rome.
4. Food and Agriculture Organization (2009) An Introduction to Basic Concepts of Food Security. FAO, Rome.
5. Haddad L, Alderman H, Appleton S, Song L, Yohannes Y (2002) Reducing Child Undernutrition: How Far Does Income Growth Take Us? FCND Discussion Paper 137, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC.

About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently pursuing PhD in Agricultural Economics from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.