According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), "Food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods [and the] assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavaging, stealing, or coping strategies)." The USDA has begun to describe families or individuals as "food secure or "food insecure" based on a continuum that is to some degree quantifiable. Simple black and white categories can be problematic, as the family's food security can vary during the course of a year, or a family may have to consume undesirable foods to get by.
Erika Allen of Chicago’s West Garfield Park describes food security as “having consistent year-round access to safe, local, affordable and culturally appropriate food that is grown, raised, produced, and moved about in manners that are responsible to the environment while reflecting a consumption of natural resources that is equitable with a view to our offspring seven generations from now.”