In recent decades, there has been an explosion of research in this important realm. From studies focusing on food outlet proximity in low-income areas, to those centering on the role of parents in providing food for their families, and still others examining paradoxical connections to obesity, food access has been explored extensively, to say the least. Collectively, we clearly know a lot about food security and insecurity at this point, so we must have the issue under control, right?
Wrong. Food insecurity not only persists in the United States; it is thriving. Since 2000, the rate of food insecurity increased from 10.5% to 14%. This begs the question: with all the great work that has been done, why have we not moved the needle yet in this realm?
The answer lies in the complexity pervasive across the systems that sustain food insecurity. In brief, we contend that food insecurity is a fundamentally systemic challenge (it has myriad interconnected parts) and a wicked problem (it has nebulous structure and manifold solution alternatives). Correspondingly, many common, simple definitions can belie and unintentionally obfuscate such complexity. Before we as a society can even begin tackling such situations, we must better define the key underlying systems at play. Despite the vast array of research on this topic, few (if any) have taken a step back and truly defined food security holistically.
With this series, we at StatusNovi hope to change this conventional dynamic by connecting the dots across disparate pockets of knowledge in the greater food security ecosystem via a systemic inquiry. At its core, this inquiry employs systems thinking, an approach that examines complex problems as webs of interacting parts in relation to a greater system as a whole. To better define the challenge, our team has synthesized numerous viewpoints documented in other pieces in the form of systems maps, illuminating emergent (sometimes previously hidden) aspects of the system. In the coming posts, we will explore these systems maps and offer interpretations of key spheres germane to a broader, more holistic definition of food insecurity.
Charles Kettering once said "a problem well stated is a problem half solved", and our aim is to provide a springboard for success in the food security arena by simply better structuring the systemic challenge at hand.