As the most significant sociological and economic problem, food security is becoming a regulated process within the framework of international political and economic cooperation. Europe is considered one of the developed regions globally; however, the sociological issue of food insecurity is still present in several countries. Therefore, it is crucial to analyze this problem regarding the study conducted by Elizabeth Garratt, published in 2020. It is critical to examine the issue from the Neo-Malthusian perspective, discuss the article’s content, and provide personal and general conclusions.
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In the European region as a whole, malnutrition or hunger is not a challenge; the exception is five or six countries where these figures still exceed the minimum. The article of Garratt examines the links between income, gender, rural development and food security and highlights Europe as the world’s second-largest migrant region (785). Garratt uses data from 27 European countries, exploring the demographic risk factors in Europe and evaluates the effect of social benefit receipt and value on this sociological issue (785). The tendency in food insecurity is that the rate of decline has slowed in recent years, with some countries and subregions even showing slight increases.
The Neo-Malthusian Perspective
Neo-Malthusians try to apply Thomas Malthus’s theory to modern conditions, arguing that high population growth rates in developing countries confirm the correctness of his teachings. Malthus emphasized the decisive importance of biological factors in the reproduction of the population (Keirns 454). His ideas are that due to people’s natural characteristics, the population tends to multiply exponentially, while the means of living can increase only in arithmetic progression (Keirns 454). In reality, the current demographic situation in developed and developing countries is determined by the level of their socio-economic progress, a significant decrease in mortality due to the advancement of medicine (Keirns 454). The objective of regulating demographic processes can be realized not within the framework of Neo-Malthusian calls for limiting childbearing but by a complex of broad and progressive socio-economic transformations that can change people’s working and living conditions.
Description of the Content
The author considers three research questions; the first concerns determining food insecurity’s demographic and economic risk factors. These are mostly low-income, older people and women, lone-parent or one-person households (Garratt 799). Other factors are poor education, people with disabilities, and unemployed people (Garratt 799). According to Garratt (789), the most interesting link is income, social benefit receipt and food insecurity. Therefore, the second research question aimed at analyzing the connection between these terms.
On the one hand, alleviating food insecurity requires predominantly direct assistance in the form of cash payments or the provision of in-kind benefits. Consequently, in the case of poverty of people with disabilities and workers forced to bear an unreasonably heavy load, higher-value social benefits can provide needed material resources to prevent food insecurity (Garratt 789). Based on the minimum budget, families have been identified as those that should receive state benefits.
On the other hand, the role of social benefit values and receipt is debatable. Garratt (792) claims that food insecurity is common among recipients of pensions and unemployment benefits. At the same time, this social issue is always associated with child benefits (Garratt 792). The third research question is whether more generous social benefits contribute to lower food insecurity risks among recipients. Garratt (806) concludes that this assumption cannot be entirely reliable as even for higher-value social benefits, they are “insufficient and unable to fully mitigate the individual and structural risk factors for food insecurity in Europe.” According to Garratt (802), no matter what value social payments are, it is still insufficient to protect vulnerable groups of the population from food insecurity. Varied and expensive aid is ineffective in terms of poverty alleviation. Overall, not all social benefit recipients are protected from food insecurity in Europe, except pension or child benefit receipt.
Recent studies indicate horizontal inequality between groups due to factors such as birth cohort, occupation, place of residence, region, age, gender, ethnicity. Therefore, in my opinion, policies and programs need to take into account income inequality among individuals and distributional tensions between groups. Moreover, governmental policies in the form of social benefits aimed at diminishing food insecurity may be considered ineffective. At present, the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated sociological issues, including the food insecurity problem. The countries’ economics face challenges that impede the payment of social benefits. The pandemic also poses additional challenges to access to healthy diets, especially for those whose incomes have declined while food prices and costs have risen.
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Thus, the prevalence of undernourishment in Europe is relatively low compared to the global average. Even though the decline in hunger has been slowing in recent years globally, the number of people suffering from malnutrition in some countries has remained unchanged over the last decade. Recommendations for reorienting policies should emphasize the need to target the poorest, most vulnerable and otherwise marginalized rural populations, including through social support and other risk management measures. In addition, the alternatives of governmental support include standards for capacity development in rural areas to offer livelihood options to avoid forced migration – areas that deserve more attention and investment.
Garratt, Elisabeth. “Food insecurity in Europe: Who is at risk, and how successful are social benefits in protecting against food insecurity?.” Journal of Social Policy, vol. 49, no. 4, 2020, pp. 785-809.
Keirns, Nathan J., et al. Introduction to Sociology 2e. OpenStax, 2017.