It was estimated in 2019 that 2 billion people did not have access to enough safe or nutritious food and 3 billion people could not afford a healthy diet. The urban environment sees the extremes of food poverty. Easy access and greater promotion of fast and ultra processed food causes obesity in urban dwellers. This issue coexists with food insecurity, as the urban poor are dependant on the cash economy and therefore a stable income to meet their food needs. A number of factors enhance these matters:
- Women are more likely to be required to work and therefore have a greater reliance on cheap childcare, which may cause children’s well-being and diets to decline.
- The urban poor commonly do not have access to cooking equipment, electricity or refrigeration, preventing food storage or meal preparation.
- The urban poor tend to opt for convenience due to lack of time, these foods tend to be of poorer nutritional quality.
- Urban poor households are less likely to be covered by social safety net programs and therefore are more vulnerable to income and food price shocks.
Immediate attention needs to be brought to these urban populations as urbanisation intensifies with an expected 2.8 billion population increase in urban residents by 2050. The International Food Policy Research Institute puts forward the necessary actions to achieve solutions which include:
1. Leverage food systems to increase the availability of affordable and nutritious food through providing supporting and training to those in the informal food sector to improve hygiene and nutritional value of the food they sell. Support and expand urban agriculture to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables.
2. Tailor and target social support schemes such as food vouchers for nutritious foods and provide free healthy school meals and educate children in healthy diets and lifestyle.
3. Address inequalities in the access of poor urban dwellers to services including health care, water sanitation and electricity.