Guest Post by Claudio Schuftan, People’s Health Movement (Ho Chi Minh City)
Claudio is third from top right (


The concept of food security captures the notion of hunger, not as a deficit of calories and nutrients, but as a violation of a broader set of social, economic, and physical conditions. So people rebel. (R.C. Patel) [Not being facetious, does this mean that those who rebel have access to a jail, but not to justice?].

The time is overdue for change

1. We have to move from the ‘science of nutrition’ to the ‘science of nutrition issues in society’. (U. Jonsson)

2. Nutrition is not just thinking about where nutrients come from. It is more to do with thinking about how society works. (B. Margetts)

3. In general, nutrition professionals have avoided fighting for massive changes, and have instead focused on small educational, surveillance and such-like efforts rather than taking-on the major causes of the problem and, at the same time, seeking meaningful solutions that will benefit people who live in poverty. (B. Popkin)

4. Why should we be surprised, then, that understanding hunger and malnutrition requires an examination of which systems and institutions hold power over food? Take, for instance, the role of the food industry (Big Food/Big Beverage); when power is concentrated in the hands of a few corporations, this calls for giving long-denied attention to the reprehensible negative role they play in the food system.* (R.C. Patel) Why are so few of us doing so, I ask?
*: The political power of the food manufacturing and allied industries might seem a daunting obstacle to policy change, but the tobacco industry was once considered invincible!

5. There is an extensive literature on the various powerful, pervasive and pernicious food-products marketing-campaigns. Global marketization is purposely directed at circumventing cognitive defenses and particularly the parental authority of children. How sophisticated it has become and how many forms of media deliver it –now including the social media (such as Facebook and twitter)– should not be unknown to you.

Women are key to food sovereignty and to overcoming malnutrition

6. Because women and girls are disproportionately disempowered through the current processes and politics of food production, consumption, and distribution, they are particularly vulnerable. (R.C. Patel) If a woman is pregnant, our worries actually multiply: Half of the stunting occurs in-utero.

7. La Via Campesina has, for long now, advocated to switch the focus from food security to food sovereignty. Through the latter, communities exercise their right to define their own food and agriculture policy. The vindication of women’s rights are a central feature of food sovereignty.**
**: Land ownership is also important for food sovereignty. [Anything we own possesses us and it is a bad thing to go through life thinking about what we own and worrying to loose it. (Carlos Fuentes)].

8. For La Via Campesina, and for many others, identifying power imbalances within the global food system is more than an academic exercise –it is a means not only to interpret the realities of the system, but also to change the system.

9. The coexistence of food insecurity and obesity may seem like a paradox in this context. But over- and undernutrition reflect two facets of one and the same malnutrition. Underlying both is a common factor: food systems are not driven to deliver optimal human diets, but rather to maximize profits. For people living in poverty, this means either exclusion from the development process (and resulting food insecurity) or eating low-cost, ultra-processed foods that lack in nutrition and are rich in sugar, salt, and saturated and trans fats with the ensuing risk of overweight, obesity and their complications). (M. Nestle)

10. These issues are likely to take years to resolve and will involve public attitudes, scientific inputs, court actions being filed, legislation and strict regulations being passed, as well as closer interpretation and enforcement of existing laws by the State. (Y)our active engagement can shorten the number of those years.