Urban nutrition
  Urban nutrition

The Impact of Global Change and Urbanization on Household Food Security, Nutrition, and Food Safety

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Work is underway towards building a conceptual understanding of the impact of urbanization and global change on the nutritional status of individuals and households in urban areas. As the world's population becomes increasingly urbanized the proportion of persons living in poverty in cities increases. With over half of the worlds population predicted to be living in urban areas by 2020, there is a pressing need to address how cities deal with service provision and city planning for healthy lifestyles. For many countries, the current rate of expansion of urban agglomerations has brought about severe challenges for provision of basic services such as adequate housing, water and sanitation systems as well as provision of health clinics and schools. There are many factors specific to life in urban environments which impact household food and nutrition security.

The three fundamental components of food security availability, access and utilization differ in urban and rural contexts and across urban socio-economic groups. A greater diversity of both local and imported food products are available in cities although, most of the food is not produced within city boundaries. Access to food in urban areas is dependent on cash exchange, with some exceptions, where urban food production contributes directly to household intake. Reliance on purchased food is a leading factor in household food insecurity of poor urban populations, who lack a fixed income. Many households use urban agriculture as a means of supplementary income and for direct household consumption, although these activities are often discouraged by municipal authorities.

Dietary habits and traditional meal patterns also differ in urban environments. To cater to busy urban lifestyles, cities offer access to a wide variety of food prepared outside the home; including street food and food served in restaurants and kiosks. Household revenue from employment in the informal street food sector is also a significant source of income for many families. Although a wider variety of food is available, the food consumed in urban areas is not necessarily of superior nutritional quality and food safety is a growing concern in many urban environments.

As urbanization increases, the impact of the broad range of factors defined collectively as "globalization" becomes more prominent. These changes include faster, less expensive forms of national and international communication and transportation, increased flows of goods and services across country borders and greater access to emerging technologies. The speed of change varies within countries and regions and has diverse impact on the food systems, health and nutritional status of populations in differing socio-economic groups within the same geographic boundaries.

Assessment of Nutritional Status in Urban Areas

© FAO 2010