Food security, human health, and sustainability


As the world’s population continues to grow, feeding people adequate, healthy food to eliminate hunger and malnutrition is a crucial challenge. This constant demographic growth can be seen as an obstacle to sustainable development and to food security. By 2020, more than 30% of the world’s population will be food insecure (United Nations, 2023). Four pillars define food security: physical availability of food determined by the level of food production, stock levels and net trade; economic and physical access to food; food utilization, commonly understood as the way the body makes the most of various nutrients in the food; and stability of the other three dimensions over time. In order to achieve food security objectives, all four dimensions must be fulfilled simultaneously (FAO, 2006).

This month, the Global Fruit & Veg Newsletter focuses on the link between food security, human health, and sustainability.

The first article studies the impact of the four dimensions of food security on health in 56 developing countries. The findings show a significant association between food security and health. The authors conclude that an increase in all dimensions eases the access of sufficient and culturally appropriate and nutritious food to meet dietary requirements and thus, improve health.

The second article investigates the differences in food plant diversity between the Mediterranean dietary pattern and Western-type consumption patterns and their impact on food security. According to this work, a higher agricultural biodiversity was observed in the Mediterranean region, with a higher diversity in food plants species, subspecies, varieties, and races in the Mediterranean diet. Therefore, biodiversity could constitute a requirement for dietary diversity, and hence nutritional security.

The third article explores how seasonality may influence the impact of education interventions on food security, diet quality and consumption of African indigenous vegetables. Interventions combining nutrition, cooking and production education may have a protective effect against seasonal fluctuations in the availability and affordability of African indigenous vegetables, as demonstrated by a higher dietary diversity score among women.

These three articles highlight the importance of addressing the four dimensions of food security to promote better health and sustainability.

Boitshepo Bibi Giyose Senior Nutrition Officer for Policy and Programmes – FAO
Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), South Africa
About the author

Boitshepo Bibi Giyose is a Senior Nutrition Officer for Policy and Programmes in the Nutrition and Food Systems Division at FAO, but currently on secondment to the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) as special advisor to the CEO since January 2018.  

Her work focuses on integrating and mainstreaming nutrition into agriculture and related development agendas, and to promote a multisector approach for addressing all forms of malnutrition.  

She holds a MS in International Nutrition from Cornell University, NY. and a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from Appalachian State University, USA. 

Ms. Giyose was awarded a “Distinguished Alumna Award” in recognition of exceptional professional achievement by Appalachian State University in 2007. She was also named Senior Policy Scholar in 2011 by the Global Child Nutrition Foundation – USA – for her work on Home Grown School Feeding. She has served on numerous international scientific technical and policy advisory committees. 

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