What is Food Security?

With a growing population, concerns around food security in Western Australia have grown in recent years. Food supplies in Perth and adjacent regional centres depend on supply lines that are vulnerable to disruption by extreme weather events, but also to global economic and geo-political factors. Food security is defined as access to an available and reliable supply of adequate, safe and nutritious food for all Western Australians (DAFWA, 2009).

Food security is achieved when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (PMSEIC, 2011).

Importantly, a precursor to food security is a concept referred to as food sovereignty. This is defined as ‘the right of peoples and sovereign states to democratically determine their own agricultural and food policies’ (Markwei, et al, 2009). More than about access to food, food sovereignty seeks to help make agricultural and food systems more equitable by making the power relationships inherent within these systems transparent.

Factors Important to Food Security in Western Australia (Adapted from DAFWA, 2009a)

There is evidence to suggest that increasing the local availability of food, especially fruit and vegetables, is an important way to increase healthy eating and prevent chronic disease. However, West Australians do not have equal and reliable access to affordable, nutritious and good quality foods, with low socio-economic groups particularly disadvantaged by the cost of nutritious foods (Dept. of Health, 2014).

Our food supply delivers energy dense, nutrient poor foods at a cheaper price than nutritious foods.  In Western Australia, we produce more food than our local population can consume. We produce specific products that are delivered to specific supply chains, with much of it for export. As a result, WA imports in value as much food as it exports (DAFWA, 2009a).

Our food security is therefore based on maintaining and improving our mechanisms for producing, importing and exporting food to provide West Australians with the range, quality and competitive price for all food. The more competitive, innovative and resilient local food producers are, the more likely they can improve the state’s food security status. Figure 1 provides an overview of the issues affecting food security in Western Australia.