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Understanding food security in a localized context is often overlooked when diagnosing and developing food security interventions. The aim of this exploratory study was to establish how young adults defined food security. For this study, a purposive sampling strategy was utilised to select 49 young adults, aged 21 to 40 years of age, from two rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Data on how participants defined and interpreted food security and food insecurity along with related issues, were collected through focus group discussions. The thematic content analysis generated a pattern of categories, concepts and themes. The themes were compared to the Food Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) comprehensive definition and framework for Food Security. Interpretations were based on observable descriptions, experiences and lived realities. Child health and care practices were equally important for defining food security, strengths that future policies and programmes could build on. Social ills and mental problems contributed to observable psycho-social aspects of severe food insecurity. Coping strategies included agriculture, social networks, and natural food resources to enhance food security. Lack of irrigation support services, underutilization of indigenous food resources, and normative experiences on transitory food insecurity posed barriers to achieving food security. This exploratory study provides insight into beneficial practices that programs can build on. Given the centrality of traditional food practices to cultural health, policies must consider both market and traditional food systems when conceptualizing food security in multicultural South Africa.