The pursuit of global food security and agricultural sustainability, the dual aim of the second sustainable development goal (SDG-2), requires urgent and concerted action from developing and developed countries. This, in turn, depends on clear and universally applicable targets and indicators which are partially lacking. The novel and complex nature of the SDGs poses further challenges to their implementation on the ground, especially in the face of interlinkages across SDG objectives and scales. Here we review the existing SDG-2 indicators, propose improvements to facilitate their operationalization, and illustrate their practical implementation in Nigeria, Brazil and the Netherlands. This exercise provides insights into the concrete actions needed to achieve SDG-2 across contrasting development contexts and highlights the challenges of addressing the links between targets and indicators within and beyond SDG-2. Ultimately, it underscores the need for integrated policies and reveals opportunities to leverage the fulfillment of SDG-2 worldwide.