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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Street food and urban and periurban agriculture and horticulture: perspectives for a strategic coalition towards food security

Stefano Marras
Stefano MarrasUniversità degli Studi di Milano-BicoccaItaly

On the basis of the many interesting contributions to this discussion, I would like to share with you additional questions, hoping you find inspiration for more, new contributions.

  1. Some of you have pointed out the benefits of street foods based on millet (particularly in India, as reported by Prof Kirit Patel and Salomeyesudas), fruit (e.g. in South Africa, as noted by Prof. Hélène Delisle) and vegetables (e.g. in Lahore, as pointed out by Hamid Ahmad, and in Europe a century ago, as noted by Lal Manavado).
    What products, both plants and animals (including insects), do you believe should be more present on street food vendors' stands? Why?
  2. Are you familiar with technologies or techniques being tested for better transportation and better storage of food from rural to urban areas? (See Mr. Vijay Yadav Tokala's contribution)
  3. A key, often neglected issue is brought out by Hamid Ahmad. Hamid notes that the consumption street food in the United States is related to socio-cultural practices and secondary needs (e.g. free time). The so-called “foodies” in the US are even willing to pay the same price they would pay for the same product in a restaurant. In poorer countries, however, street food is mainly related to urban poverty and basic needs, providing nutritious food at low cost. Hence, Hamid points out the risks coming to official, top-down projects aimed at improving the quality of street foods, there where such projects may bring higher costs for vendors, and therefore higher prices for consumers. Rather, Hamid suggests that "social pressure and table talk on the spot by consumers routine matter and affect much more than drawing any lines for monitoring and evaluation."
    What do you think about this?
  4. Lisa Kitinoja points out that postharvest losses (due to poor handling on the farm, damages during harvest, poor quality packaging) bring farmers to raise the prices of their products on the market to compensate.
    What role could street food vendors play to reduce farmers postharvest losses?
  5. Prof. Hélène Delisle mentioned the Nutrition Friendly School Initiative implemented in Benin and Burkina Faso: street food vendors were trained in hygiene and basic nutrition to be able to sell healthier food to school children. This project proved to be successful, generating improvements in the variety and quality of food served. Nevertheless, such a project needed to sensitize the students themselves (they often love, you know, foods that are rich in chemical colors and flavors). Awareness activities were then conducted with the participation of teachers.
    Are you aware of campaigns or communication strategies, aimed specifically at children and young people, aimed to encourage them to eat healthier foods? Any example of  “fun and creative” campaigns, as suggested by Ms. Amila Fauziah?
  6. Farmers prefer to sell their products in bulk (either to general markets or supermatkets) in order to have a high revenue. This means that street food vendors, taken individually, are not an attractive customer to farmers. As pointed out by Salomeyesudas, to support the connection between street food vendors and local farmers, the former should unite in cooperatives enabling to buy large quantities of products. This strategy would benefits both actors, as it would eliminate middleman (See Mr. Palanivelayutham's contribution).
    What organizational strategies could be put in place to encourage, strengthen and make the link between street food vendors and local farmers profitable?
  7. Massive conurbation erases cultivable areas within urban areas (See Lal Manavado and Gisèle Yasmeen). This happens because the value of building areas is higher than that of cultivable areas. For this reason, cities’ governments prefer to sell (at high prices), or to grant land (with the prospect of high returns in taxes) for building rather than farming.
    Can you think of possible strategies to make arable land in the city as profitable (either in the short or in the long term) as building land?
  8. Finally, the food safety issue is certainly important. But it is necessary, in my opinion, to go beyond the great amount of literature and reports showing the high level of bacterial contamination and ensuing toxicological hazards of street foods. In 1985 Pan American and World Health Organization (PAHO and WHO) organized the first workshop on the issue in Lima, Peru. A few years later, in 1991, a severe cholera epidemic struck the Peruvian country and the surrounding Andean region; street food was considered to be the major carrier of the disease (Ries et al., 1992, Panisset, 2000). Ever since, the assessment of bacterial contamination levels in street foods has drawn the attention of scholars, authorities and organizations throughout the continent and beyond (Schubert, 1992; Arámbulo et al., 1995; Costarrica et al., 1996; Morón and Schjtman, 1997; Moy et al., 1997; Evans and Brachman, 1998; López Rivera et al., 1998; FAO and WHO, 2001; Hanashiro et al., 2005; Larralde and Sciutto, 2006; Bogota N.A.O., 2009; FAO, 2009a; Méndez et al., 2010).
    Several factors potentially contribute to bacterial contamination of street food. Beside the dust, pollution, insects that are lurking in the streets, risks may arise where street food is home-prepared by those vendors living and selling in underdeveloped settlements, where water and sanitation infrastructures and services are often deficient (UN-Habitat, 2003). When vendors have low or no schooling, their knowledge and awareness about bio-medical guidelines to handle food safely may be limited.
    Despite knowledge of the risk factors, actual harm to consumers’ health is yet to be fully proven and understood. Due to difficulties in tracking cases and the lack of disease-reporting systems, follow-up studies proving actual connections between street food consumption and food-borne diseases are still very few (i.e., Flisser, 2013). Little attention has been devoted to consumers and their eating habits, behaviors, and awareness. The fact that social and geographical origins largely determine consumers’ physiological adaptation and reaction to foods--whether contaminated or not--is neglected in the literature.