Words by Jennifer Birch, Guest contributer

When news of nationwide lockdowns broke out, most people’s immediate response was to stockpile food. Supermarket shelves emptied out quickly as a result. Even now, some supplies have not been replenished, which has led to concerns over food shortages.

Experts assure us that there is no reason to panic — Australia is one of the most food secure nations in the world. But what exactly does being ‘food secure’ mean?

Defining food security

Food security is when people in one location have physical, social, and economic access to adequate amounts of safe and nutritious food. That means food availability is not the only measure of food security, but access, utilisation, and economic stability are as well.

As a response to these growing concerns, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment released recent findings on the country’s food security. The results were all very reassuring that Australia has no problems when it comes to food security. According to several global organisations, it ranks lowest in undernourishment cases, 7th in food affordability, and 10th in food availability.

There is more than enough for everyone, as figures indicate Australia produces a lot more food than it consumes. In fact, 71 percent of agricultural production is exported —and this includes staples like sugar, grains, dairy, and meat. All in all, Australians shouldn’t worry about running out of food because the country has excellent food security.

A newfound appreciation for food

However, food security here in Australia doesn’t mean our farmers have it easy. Today, the government support for local agriculture is the among the lowest in the OECD.

One way to support farmers is to buy local products over imported. This will help stimulate the local economy as well as minimise food wastage from disrupted supply chains.

Supporting local fits with society’s newfound awareness of and appreciation for food. Given that a lot of restaurants remain closed, most people have resorted to home cooking. Market research shows an uptick in sales of kitchen supplies as more and more people start exploring their own kitchens. Until dining establishments reopen, residents are encouraged to continue experimenting in their own kitchens whilst supporting our local farmers.

What about the rest of the world?

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the rest of the world. The pandemic has shown how exposed some countries are when it comes to food security.