Food Insecurity in the Domestic and International COVID-19 Context | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin


May 27, 2020

For decades the number of undernourished people had been declining, but as of 2015 this is no longer the case. Current trends of food insecurity are especially alarming in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Supply chain pressures and international movement restrictions coupled with a global economic crisis are exacerbating the existing food security crisis. What is the policy solution to addressing immediate food needs? What is the broader long-term road map? How does the U.S. balance domestic and global food insecurity pressures? And who are the people at greatest risk of suffering from food insecurity as a result of COVID-19? LBJ professors Erin Lentz and Raj Patel talk about food insecurity, hunger and the implications of the pandemic.


Deeper Dive

The state of food security and nutrition in the world
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2019
For decades, the number of hungry people had been declining — this isn't true anymore. Annual report on global food insecurity by the United National Food and Agricultural Organization.

COVID-19 and the five major threats it poses to global food security
World Food Program USA, March 16, 2020
Entering 2020, the number of hungry and malnourished people around the world was already on the rise due to an increase in violent conflict and climate change impacts. Today, over 800 million people face chronic undernourishment and over 100 million people are in need of lifesaving food assistance. The novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, risks undermining the efforts of humanitarian and food security organizations seeking to reverse these trends.

Watch: The impact of coronavirus on global food security
World Bank, April 21, 2020
What can we do to help the poorest and most vulnerable access the food they need during the coronavirus pandemic? The World Bank's vice president for sustainable development has some ideas.

COVID-19 and the crisis in food systems: Symptoms, causes and potential solutions
IPES Food (International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, April 2020
The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) has taken stock of the past 100 days amid the global pandemic, with a new communiqué on COVID-19 and the crisis in food systems. What are the symptoms and causes of this food crisis? Why are we in the midst of this perfect storm? What can be done immediately to avert more damage to society and the economy? And what are the structural changes we now need to protect people and planet?

On the choice and impacts of innovative international food assistance instruments
By Erin C.Lentz, Christopher B.Barrett, Miguel I.Gómez, Daniel G. Maxwell, World Development, Vol. 49, September 2013, Pages 1-8
This academic study finds that the rise of new food assistance instruments, including local and regional procurement, cash and vouchers, has surpassed increase in understanding of the tradeoffs among and impacts of these options relative to traditional food aid. Response choices rarely appear to result from systematic response analyses. Further, impacts along multiple dimensions—timeliness, cost-effectiveness, local market effects, recipient satisfaction, food quality, impact on smallholder suppliers, etc.—may be competing or synergistic. No single food assistance tool is always and everywhere preferable. A growing body of evidence, including the papers in this special section, nonetheless demonstrates the clear value-added of new food assistance instruments.

A data-driven approach improves food insecurity crisis prediction
By E.C. Lentz., H. Michelson, K.Baylis and Y.Zhou, World Development, Vol. 122, October 2019, Pages 399—409
This academic study presents a new, transparent and replicable model-driven method to predict the onset of food crises across the world. The authors apply the model to Malawi, a country with persistent chronic and acute food security problems. Leveraging readily available data, their model substantially improves over the status quo global methods of prediction, and their analysis and results demonstrate the potential gains to real-time food security modeling.

Complicating narratives of women's food and nutrition insecurity: Domestic violence in rural Bangladesh
By Erin C. Lentz, World Development, Volume 104, April 2018, Pages 271–280
In this academic study, Erin Lentz notes that while many women in Bangladesh face both food insecurity and domestic violence, we should not presume that, in these situations, all women are agentless. She finds that some rural Bangladeshi women navigate these complex relationships by eating less or lower-quality foods to avoid violence, or vice versa.