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The Famine Times were a result of Leto's Peace, whereby all populations were planet bound. Following Leto's death, the peoples of the Imperium fell into famine, since they had come to rely on Leto's Empire for all things.
The desperation felt by those experiencing the Famine Times eventually led to the explosion of humanity across the universe. This was the essence of The Scattering, and part of the Golden Path that would save humanity from stagnation and annihilation.