Written by Professor Sheryl Hendriks (Professor of Food Security, Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development, University of Pretoria, South Africa) for the SDG Bulletin South African (May 2018)


While SDG2 focuses on ending hunger, reducing food insecurity and improving nutrition, elements related to food security can be found in all 17 SDGs. Twelve SDGs contain indicators related to nutrition. As food security is a complex concept that includes multiple development-related elements, it is not surprising that achieving food security would help achieve the SDGs in general and progress in the other 16 SDGs would contribute to food security.

Food security is a basic human right and central to the rights of children in particular. Food insecurity is experienced as deprivationrelated to a lack of availability of adequate nutritious food; denied or constrained access to available food; poor nutrition due to poor sanitation and inadequate child and health care; the consumption of poor quality diets as well as instability in the availability and access to food. At its extreme, food insecurity is experienced as starvation. Chronic undernourishment and less obvious micronutrient deficiencies are other outcomes of food insecurity and rob people of productivity and opportunities.

More recently, attention has been drawn to the co-existence of undernourishment and overweight in the same household and community. This phenomenon is related to poorly understood feeding practices of infants and young children and limited quality and diversity of diets. Its emergence strongly links a number of SDGs to food security, demonstrating the interconnectedness of the requirements for sustainable development. For example, poverty (SDG1) traps low-income households in situations where affordability limits the variety and options available and leads to the reliance on a narrow range of high-energy, nutrient-poor foods. This compromises health and well-being (SDG3), education attainment (SGD4), widens inequality (SGD 10) – especially gender inequality (SDG5), constrains economic growth and work opportunities (SDG8).

While many assume that hunger and food insecurity are not major problems in South Africa, this is not the case. Despite the existence of over 60 public programmes aimed at addressing food insecurity, the country has not seen a dramatic decline in food insecurity. Statistics South Africa (2016) reports that one in five households struggle to access enough food to meet their needs and one in three children are short for their height (stunted). These statistics reveal that food insecurity is a reality for many households and children. Much more needs to be done to raise incomes, ensure nutritious and affordable food systems and support healthy food choices by households and individuals.


More about the author

Professor Sheryl L Hendriks is a Professor and Director of the University of Pretoria’s Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being. She has extensive experience in food security policy analysis. She is engaged in influential global food security policy think tanks and actively supports food policy reform in African countries.