Definitions: Food Security vs. Food Self-Sufficiency

Richard Ha writes:

At our last Board of Agriculture meeting, Matthew Loke, Chief Economist for the Department of Agriculture, differentiated between “food security” and “food self-sufficiency.”

“Food security” means being able to get adequate and sufficient food, regardless of where it comes from. These days, it comes from all over the world. We are able to buy food from all over because money comes into our economy from the outside, with military spending and tourism being primary contributors. That provides us with money to pay for general services to our society and to buy our food.

“Food self-sufficiency” is when we grow all the food we need, right here at home.

As long as our economy functions smoothly, we have food security. Just go to your local grocery store and look at the variety of foodstuffs – from fruits to cereal to canned goods.

Food self-sufficiency is desirable as a hedge against when the economic supply lines start being challenged, at which time it’s more desirable to have our food sourced close to home. More and more, it’s looking like that time is coming.

Since we operate mainly as a market economy, we are influenced by the cost of producing that food. The concept "If the farmer makes money, the farmer will farm" is a very important aspect of fresh food self-sufficiency.

We have very good resources and we need to use them in a smart, cost-effective way. The main reason we in Hawai‘i are lucky as we move toward self-sufficiency is the abundant sun energy we have. Sun combined with water availability gives us the primary input to growing stuff. And if we produce it close to where it is consumed, we save on transportation costs.

Hawaiians figured all this out many centuries ago. Here we are trying to solve the same problems all over again today.

What works, works.