For decades, global food security has not been able to address the structural problem of economic access to food, resulting in a recent increase in the number of undernourished people from 2014. In addition, the FAO estimates that the number of undernourished people drastically increased by 82–132 million people in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To alleviate this dramatic growth in food insecurity, it is necessary to understand the nature of the increase in the number of malnourished during the pandemic. In order to address this, we gathered and synthesized food-security-related empirical results from the first year of the pandemic in a systematic review. The vast majority (78%) of the 51 included articles reported household food insecurity has increased (access, utilization) and/or disruption to food production (availability) was a result of households having persistently low income and not having an adequate amount of savings. These households could not afford the same quality and/or quantity of food, and a demand shortfall immediately appeared on the producer side. Producers thus had to deal not only with the direct consequences of government measures (disruption in labor flow, lack of demand of the catering sector, etc.) but also with a decline in consumption from low-income households. We conclude that the factor that most negatively affects food security during the COVID-19 pandemic is the same as the deepest structural problem of global food security: low income. Therefore, we argue that there is no need for new global food security objectives, but there is a need for an even stronger emphasis on poverty reduction and raising the wages of low-income households. This structural adjustment is the most fundamental step to recover from the COVID-19 food crises, and to avoid possible future food security crises.
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