Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Food security outcomes in agricultural systems models: Current status and recommended improvements

Nicholson, Charles F.; Stephens, Emma C.; Kopainsky, Birgit; Jones, Andrew D.; Parsons, David; Garrett, James


Improvement of food security is a common objective for many agricultural systems analyses, but how food security has been conceptualized and evaluated within agricultural systems has not been systematically evaluated. We reviewed the literature on agricultural systems analyses of food security at the household- and regionallevels, finding that the primary focus is on only one dimension of food security-agricultural output as a proxy for food availability. Given that food security comprises availability, access, utilization and stability dimensions, improved practice would involve more effort to incorporate food access and stability indicators into agricultural systems models. The empirical evidence base for including food access indicators and their determinants within agricultural systems models requires further development through appropriate short and longterm investments in data collection and analysis. Assessment of the stability dimension of food security (through time) is also particularly under-represented in previous work and requires the development and application of appropriate dynamic models of agricultural systems that include food security indicators, coupled with more formalized treatment of robustness and adaptability at both the regional and household levels. We find that agricultural systems models often conflate analysis of food security covariates that have the potential to improve food security (like agricultural yields) with an assessment of food security itself. Agricultural systems modelers should exercise greater caution in referring to analyses of agricultural output and food availability as representing food security more generally.


Food security; Agricultural systems models; Food access; Stability

Published in

Agricultural Systems
2021, volume: 188, article number: 103028

Authors' information

Nicholson, Charles F.
Cornell University
Nicholson, Charles F.
Radboud University Nijmegen
Stephens, Emma C.
Agriculture and Agri Food Canada
Kopainsky, Birgit
University of Bergen
Jones, Andrew D.
University of Michigan
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Agricultural Research for Northern Sweden
University of Tasmania
Garrett, James
Bioversity International

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)