Households are food secure when they have year-round access to the amount and variety of safe foods their members need to lead active and healthy lives. At the household level, food security refers to the ability of the household to secure, either from its own production or through purchases, adequate food for meeting the dietary needs of all members of the household.
The nutritional status of each member of the household depends on several conditions being met: the food available to the household must be shared according to individual needs; the food must be of sufficient variety, quality and safety; and each family member must have good health status in order to benefit from the food consumed.
FAO recognizes that healthy, well-nourished people are both the outcome of successful social and economic development and constitute an essential input into the development process.
Achieving the WFS nutrition-related goals requires that national and sectoral development policies and programmes are complemented by effective community-based action aimed at improving household food security and promoting the year-round consumption of nutritionally adequate diets. These actions need to occur within the framework of promoting sustainable livelihoods and need to address the variety of locally-relevant issues leading to various forms of malnutrition, including problems of chronic and seasonal food shortages, lack of dietary diversity, inadequate family care and feeding practices, and poor living conditions.
FAO’s Household Food Security and Community Nutrition Group, together with the Nutrition Information, Communication and Education Group, constitute the Nutrition Programmes Service. The activities of the Service are directed toward developing and implementing effective programmes, both under normal circumstances and in emergency situations, to assist the poor households and communities in securing access to nutritionally adequate diets and to improve their dietary intakes and nutritional well-being, while reducing food insecurity and poverty. Activities focus on the poor and malnourished and on households struggling to meet the additional problems resulting from living with HIV/AIDS.
Within the Service emphasis is placed on developing resource materials and inter-disciplinary activities to assist member countries, their institutions and communities in rural and urban areas to identify and implement intersectoral strategies and actions that lead to sustainable reductions in malnutrition. The Household Food Security and Community Nutrition Group promotes direct action to improve household food security and nutrition, emphasising food-based, community-centred initiatives using participatory approaches that encourage and empower people to take an active role in designing and implementing activities to improve their food security and nutritional well-being.
Assistance is provided to member countries and their institutions at all levels to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate effective community-based household food security and nutrition programmes. It focuses on poor and vulnerable households and promotes the utilisation of local resources for both improved consumption and income-generation, through:
- The development and dissemination of methodological packages, guidelines and other technical materials, including lessons learned from practical field interventions.
- The development and dissemination of training material, including those aimed at trainers, on household food security and nutrition for use by local institutions and field staff, and the organisation of training programmes at different levels to enhance national and local training capacities.
- The promotion of a forum on household food security and community nutrition through informal meetings, expert consultations, networks and interactive websites to facilitate the exchange of information, foster collaboration and share lessons learned among development practitioners, agencies, institutions and NGOs.
This overall approach is also adapted to the context of food emergencies resulting from either natural disasters or man-made conflicts. FAO gives high priority to work in early warning, nutrition assistance in emergency situations, and improved preparedness through sustainable food security policies. Technical assistance is provided to protect and promote good nutrition and household food security throughout relief, rehabilitation and disaster preparedness and includes:
- direct support for preparedness planning
- preparation of guidelines and manuals
- emergency assessments
- project formulation and backstopping
- fostering interagency co-operation and information exchange.