Food Security Urgency, Definition & Indicators


Food is one of the basic human needs that must be met for the sustainability of life. Through adequate food consumption and quality (balanced nutrition) there will be an improvement in the quality of life. Thus food becomes a very important element for the sustainability of a country. Many countries – even large countries – have been erased from the world map due to difficulties with food service. In history, if a nation wants to conquer another nation, then the cut off of food supply for the nation is often the main instrument. The Ottoman siege of Byzantium a few centuries ago was carried out by cutting off the food supply for Constantinople which was the heart and symbol of Byzantine power.

Regarding the importance of food issues, various international institutions – such as FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization), IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute), EIU (The Economist Intelligent Unit) and Economic Research Service (ERS) under the USDA (United The State Department of Agriculture) has formulated the definition of food security, indicators, even classifying and ranking the various countries in the world based on a number of indicators of food security.

At the national level (Indonesia), the issue of food is also a major issue and has always been a priority program for every regime/government, often even becoming a political issue. Experience has proven that disruptions to food security such as skyrocketing rice prices during the 1997/1998 economic crisis, which developed into a multidimensional crisis, have triggered social insecurity that jeopardizes economic stability and national stability (BULOG, 2014). Given the importance of the food problem, the Government of Indonesia has issued a Food Law (Law No. 18/2012) – which is an improvement of Law No. 7/1996 – as a legal basis for food policy and efforts to realize food security. However, with so many food problems, it is necessary to identify the problem and need a comprehensive solution.

Definitions of Food Security

Food security that is the focus of this discussion has a close relationship with food sovereignty and food independence. Therefore, it is necessary to define and clarify the three concepts. Referring to the UN Food Security Committee, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, 2020) defines food security as a condition where all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to adequate, safe and nutritious food and meet food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life

In line with this definition, The Economist (2017) asserts that food security will only be realized if each country has the ability to maintain food availability that is affordable for all citizens (food affordability), where food is quality and safe (food safety & quality) for consumption. Furthermore, indicators of food availability, according to The Economist (2017) are: (1) adequacy of food supply, (2) government spending on agricultural research & development, (3) adequacy of agricultural infrastructure, (4) volatility or liveliness of agricultural products, (4 ) political stability, (5) absorption of urban population (on agricultural products), and (6) food loss.

The food affordability, according to the agency, is: (1) household expenses for food expenditure; (2) the proportion of population below the world poverty line, purchasing power balance and exchange rate; (3) Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita; (4) Tariffs on imports of agricultural products; (4) food safety net program; and (5) farmers’ access to agricultural finance. For the food safety and quality, the UK-based international institution formulated indicators: (1) diversification of diet, (2) nutritional standards, (3) availability of micronutrients, (4) protein quality, and (5) food safety.

The food security indicators formulated by The Economist are more macro. This is not surprising because – based on these indicators – The Economist routinely ranks the food safety of countries in the world. In other words, the macro indicators are formulated to rank the food security of countries in the world.

In line with these definitions, FAO (2006) refers to the 1996 World Food Summit, formulating the same definition of food security, namely:

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. (FAO, 2006)

However, referring to the definition, FAO emphasizes four important aspects and formulates the rather-micro indicators, so that they are easier to measure. The four aspects are: (a) food availability in sufficient quantities with appropriate quality, whether supplied through domestic production or import. (b) food access, i.e. individual access to adequate food as an entitlements to obtain nutritious food. (c) utilization of food through proper diet, clean water, sanitation and health care to achieve adequate nutrition, as well as the fulfillment of all individual physiological needs. (d) food stability, which is to achieve food security, a community group, households or individuals must at all times have access to adequate food. They should be avoided from  the risk of losing access to food as a result of unexpected events, such as economic crises, climate change or cyclical events such as seasonal food insecurity that result in crop failure. This means that the food must be available in various situations and conditions, both in certain socio-economic conditions or in certain natural conditions.  Connecting with this discussion, the USDA-ERS (2019) emphasizes that food security means that all citizens at all times have access to adequate food for a healthy and active life. Furthermore, the USDA-ERS (2019) groups the household based on the food security levels into high, low, and very low. The grouping is based on ten indicators of micro food security. The more often have the feelings or the more often experience what is mentioned in these indicators, the lower the degree of family food security. Conversely, the less often or never experience what is mentioned in the indicator, the higher – or even close to perfection – food security that the family has. The ten indicators are:

  • Feeling of worry that their food will run out before they get money to buy more;
  • The food bought is a little only, quickly runs out, and does not have money to buy more food;
  • Unable to consume a balanced food;
  • Cutting or reducing the size of food consumed because they do not have enough money to buy.
  • The act of cutting or minimizing the food is carried out within three consecutive months or more;
  • Unsatisfied eating (not in accordance with the desired portion of food) because does not have enough money;
  • Feeling hungry but not eating because they can’t afford enough food
  • Losing weight because does not have enough money to buy food.
  • Don’t eat all day because he does not have money to buy food.
  • Three months or more do not eat all day.


Definition of Food Security According to the Food Law

For Indonesia – besides understanding the definition of food security formulated by international institutions – it is also necessary to understand the food security contained in the Food Law (Law No. 18/2012). Related to food security in the Food Law, there are three important concepts that must be understood, namely: food security, food sovereignty and food safety.

The definition of food security according to Law 18/2012 is the condition of the fulfillment of food for the state up to individuals, which is reflected in the availability of sufficient food, both in quantity and quality, safe, diverse, nutritious, equitable, and affordable and does not conflict with religion, beliefs, and community culture, to be able to live healthy, active and productive sustainably

Food sovereignty according to Law 18/2012 is the right of the state and nation that independently determines food policies that guarantee the right to food for the people and which gives the community the right to determine food systems that are in accordance with the potential of local resources.

Food Independence according to Law 18/2012 is the ability of the state and nation to produce diverse foods from within the country that can guarantee the fulfillment of sufficient food needs up to the individual level by utilizing the potential of natural resources, human, social, economic, and local wisdom in a way dignified.

Food Safety according to Law No. 18/2018 is a condition and effort needed to prevent food from possible biological, chemical and other contaminants that can disturb, harm and endanger human health and do not conflict with the religion, beliefs and culture of the community so that it is safe for consumption


Food Security Conception and Policy

Based on Law No. 18/2012 the food security system in Indonesia must be built on the basis of food sovereignty and food independence (FSA, 2020). Food security based on food sovereignty implies that in determining food security policies, the state/ government could not be intervened by any parties whether foreign or private. In addition, the state gives its people the right to participate in realizing food security.

Meanwhile, food security based on food independence means that the provision of food to meet food needs up to the individual level is done by prioritizing domestic food production. Food production activities are carried out by utilizing the potential of natural resources, human resources, social, economic and local wisdom.

Meanwhile, food security based on food independence means that the provision of food to meet food needs up to the individual level is done by prioritizing domestic food production. Food production activities are carried out by utilizing the potential of natural resources, human resources, social, economic and local wisdom.

Food security is manifested in the aspects of: (i) food availability based on the optimal use of local resources; (ii) food affordability from the physical and economic aspects of the whole community, and (iii) utilization of food or consumption of food and nutrition for a healthy, active and productive life.

The aspect of food availability is the most upstream aspect in food security. When referring to the definition of food security (Law No. 18/2012), the indicator is the availability of sufficient food, both in quantity and quality, safe, diverse, nutritious and evenly distributed.

Under the food law, food availability is met by domestic production and food reserves. Domestic food production is carried out by relying on local resources, institutions and culture; develop the efficiency of the food business system; developing facilities, infrastructure and technology for food production, postharvest handling, processing and storage; building, rehabilitating and developing food production infrastructure; maintain and develop productive land; and developing food production centers. Meanwhile, food reserves aim to anticipate shortages of food availability, food price volatility and anticipate emergencies. In addition, food reserves can be used for international cooperation and foreign food assistance (Law Number 18/2012).

In addition to the availability of sufficient quantity and quality of food, food must be accessible to the whole community up to the individual level physically or economically. Physically, the distribution of food evenly throughout the region and economically, the price of food is in accordance with purchasing power of the people.

This is a challenge in the policy strategy to provide adequate food for all Indonesian citizens, both in quantity and quality, safe, diverse, nutritious, equitable, and affordable on the basis of food sovereignty and food independence. ***



Food Security Agency (FSA), 2020,  “Kerangka Regulasi.” [Regulatory Framework]., accessed 8 February, 2020

Bulog, 2014, “Ketahanan Pangan,” [Food Security]. ketahananpangan.php,  Accessed 8 February, 2020

FAO, 2006, “Policy Brief-Food Security,” report/world/policy-brief-food-security

IFPRI, “Food Security,”

The Economist, 2017,  “Global Food Security Index: Measuring Food Security and the Impact of Resources Risk,” The Economist Intelligent Unit

The law Number 18/ 2012 About Food

USDA-ERS, 2019, “Food Security Definition, “ topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/

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