Food Security and Women’s Empowerment

At the intersection of climate change and public health lies food security, and once political and social climates are taken into account, food security reveals itself to be an issue of justice and women’s empowerment. Food security programs should be a main issue that is brought to the attention of federal decision makers; these programs should increase access to knowledge of and access to nutritious food options especially to women and mothers.


Food security defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.[1] Food security is an environmental issue as well as an issue of public health because undernutrition leads to nutrient deficiencies that can develop into more serious disease, and lack of access to clean food leads to bacterial diseases such as Cholera. It may be seen as a global issue and not one of United States domestic policy, however, this issue extends beyond the popularized ideas of starvation in third world countries.


In the United States, food deserts, which are areas that do not have access to nutritious food usually coupled with streets filled with miles of fast food restaurants and no supermarket to purchase fresh produce, exist in communities of color and of low socioeconomic status. This issue is one of social and environmental equity as particular communities in the US are impacted by food security at a larger rate than others. Currently 23.5 million US Citizens are living in food deserts and half of them are low-income.[2] It is evident that marginalized communities receive the most exposure and are the most vulnerable to decreased food security, and with increasing temperatures and more intense droughts and natural disasters due to climate change, these communities must be prioritized in development of policy to increase food security.


Women are undoubtedly marginalized due to patriarchal structures that exist socially but also institutionally, such as the gender-wage gap and discrimination within job fields. In the United States, women and children suffer the most from the impacts that food security have on quality of life and public health due to the fact that women often take on the role of ensuring their families have food, due to the structure of the nuclear family, expected gender roles, and the ways in which capitalism reinforces these roles. Women and children of low socio-economic class have lower access to technology and education in relation to food security. It is shown that a majority of families under the poverty line are headed by women due to the structural inequalities, such as the aforementioned gender-wag gap. In academia, “there is a general consensus that gender inequalities in areas such as ownership and access to resources, land tenure systems, education, extension and health have contributed to lower agricultural productivity and higher poverty levels”.[3] Geographic lack of access to nutritious food and grocery stores impacts the ability of already marginalized groups to not have access to food. It is evidenced that empowering women leads to increased food security, so what policy approaches can be taken to ensure women are empowered to provide sufficient and nutritious food to their families?



While increasing aid to families and empowering women with monetary means may not be feasible in the current political climate, however, investing in city planning that involves sufficient grocery store and restaurant options will be efficient and revolutionary. Les Roopanarine states in The Guardian that scholars and activists must, “persuade governments that the empowerment and education of women is a secret weapon against food insecurity, a low-cost way to significantly reduce hunger and malnutrition”.[4] Food security has not been a real issue at the table of policy in the United States for years, however, should be revisited and focused on educating women and mitigating the food deserts that exist across the country.


Works Cited

[1] FAO. (n.d.). Chapter 2. Food security: Concepts and measurement. Retrieved from

[2] 11 Facts About Food Deserts. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[3] Kiptot, E., & Franzel, S. (2011). Gender and Agroforestry in Africa: Are women participating. doi:10.5716/op16988

[4] Roopanarine, L. (2013, March 05). Are women the secret weapon in the battle for food security? | Les Roopanarine. Retrieved from

3 thoughts on “Food Security and Women’s Empowerment

  1. I really appreciate that you discuss how food insecurity is an environmental issue as much as it is a public health issue! Access to healthy and nutritious foods is a key aspect of our hierarchy of needs as humans, and I agree that it should become a more significant policy issue to alleviate this problem. Your policy recommendation is interesting and important, as it focuses more on the large-scale problem rather than addressing individual families’ concerns. I think this could be effective in fixing some of the systemic problems that cause food insecurity, whereas providing cash stipends or food support programs to low-income individuals is just a temporary solution. I agree that female empowerment (economic & social) is a great tool to address some of the greater inequalities that exist in our society. This aspect of your post reminded me of the “The Two-Income Trap” by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which describes the economic movement of women joining the workforce, as well as some of the benefits and costs of this phenomenon. I think this post brings together a lot of really important policy issues, and more research and debate should happen at the legislative setting around this issue.

  2. I have recently been learning about the relationship between the empowerment and education of women and climate change and this blog really helped shed some light on this topic. I specifically enjoyed the quote “persuade governments that the empowerment and education of women is a secret weapon against food insecurity, a low-cost way to significantly reduce hunger and malnutrition” at the end of the blog. I feel as though this quote helped tie together a lot of your thoughts. Although you state that it may not be feasible to support the empowering of women through monetary means, it may be feasible to support research into how this support may impact climate change or others living conditions or economic sectors, and in turn may actually prove to be feasible. I believe this is something to expand on in your recommendations section because I do feel as though the point you bring up throughout the blog is extremely important and increasingly worth the efforts and costs.

  3. This is a great blog that sheds light on an often overlooked environmental issue! Food security plays a huge role in larger discussions around poverty vs. impoverishment, and the structural and institutional issues that differentiate each one. Your discussion on how marginalized, low-income communities of color, and particularly women, disproportionately bear the negative impacts of lack of access to healthy foods goes to show how environmental policies oftentimes have social and economic justice impacts that policymakers must take into consideration.

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