Special Issue "Urban Food Deserts: Perspectives from the Global South"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Wildlife".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2018).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Jonathan Crush
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2, Canada
Tel. +1-2267723123
Interests: global development; international migration; urbanization and urban food issues
Dr. Zhenzhong Si
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2, Canada
Tel. +1-2267723153
Interests: international development; food security; food safety; ecological agriculture; sustainable food systems

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The industrialization of the urban food system, alongside the proliferation of supermarkets, has dramatically transformed the landscape of food accessibility in cities. In many countries, especially the US, the spatial consolidation of food provisioning has deprived many urban neighbourhoods of easy access to food, particularly foodstuffs integral to a healthy diet. These often socioeconomically disadvantaged urban areas are referred to as “food deserts”. However, studies of urban food deserts in cities of the Global South are sparse, given their complicated urban food systems with the strong presence of informal food economies and diverse food sources. This Special Issue calls for both empirical studies and theoretical discussions of urban food deserts in the Global South, with a focus on a broad range of issues such as food accessibility, food affordability, urban food sources, informal food economies, supermarketization and the food security characteristics and consequences of food deserts, as well as urban policies that contribute to or mitigate the existence and development of food deserts. Papers submitted to the Special Issue could approach these themes from various disciplinary and theoretical perspectives.

Dr. Jonathan Crush
Dr. Zhenzhong Si
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • food deserts
  • food sources
  • food security
  • urban food system
  • food accessibility
  • urban food policies
  • informal food economy
  • the Global South

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Mapping Obesogenic Food Environments in South Africa and Ghana: Correlations and Contradictions
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3924; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143924 - 18 Jul 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
In sub-Saharan Africa, urbanisation and food systems change contribute to rapid dietary transitions promoting obesity. It is unclear to what extent these changes are mediated by neighbourhood food environments or other factors. This paper correlates neighbourhood food provision with household consumption and poverty [...] Read more.
In sub-Saharan Africa, urbanisation and food systems change contribute to rapid dietary transitions promoting obesity. It is unclear to what extent these changes are mediated by neighbourhood food environments or other factors. This paper correlates neighbourhood food provision with household consumption and poverty in Khayelitsha, South Africa and Ahodwo, Ghana. Georeferenced survey data of food consumption and provision were classified by obesity risk and protection. Outlets were mapped, and density and distribution correlated with risk classes. In Khayelitsha, 71% of households exceeded dietary obesity risk thresholds while 16% consumed protective diets. Obesogenic profiles were less (26%) and protective more prevalent (23%) in Ahodwo despite greater income poverty in Khayelitsha. Here, income-deprived households consumed significantly (p < 0.005) less obesogenic and protective diets. Small informal food outlets dominated numerically but supermarkets were key household food sources in Khayelitsha. Although density of food provision in Ahodwo was higher (76/km2), Khayelitsha outlets (61/km2) provided greater access to obesogenic (57% Khayelitsha; 39% Ahodwo) and protective (43% Khayelitsha; 16% Ahodwo) foods. Consumption and provision profiles correlate more strongly in Ahodwo than Khayelitsha (rKhayelitsha = 0.624; rAhodwo = 0.862). Higher obesogenic food consumption in Khayelitsha suggests that risky food environments and poverty together promote obesogenic diets. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Food Deserts: Perspectives from the Global South)
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Open AccessArticle
Do Urban Food Deserts Exist in the Global South? An Analysis of Nairobi and Mexico City
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 1963; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11071963 - 02 Apr 2019
Abstract
Recent conceptualizations of ‘food deserts’ have expanded from a sole focus on access to supermarkets, to food retail outlets, to all household food sources. Each iteration of the urban food desert concept has associated this kind of food sourcing behavior to poverty, food [...] Read more.
Recent conceptualizations of ‘food deserts’ have expanded from a sole focus on access to supermarkets, to food retail outlets, to all household food sources. Each iteration of the urban food desert concept has associated this kind of food sourcing behavior to poverty, food insecurity, and dietary diversity characteristics. While the term continues to evolve, there has been little empirical evidence to test whether these assumed associations hold in cities of the Global South. This paper empirically tests the premises of three iterations of the urban food desert concept using household survey data collected in Nairobi, Kenya, and Mexico City, Mexico. While these associations are statistically significant and show the expected correlation direction between household food sourcing behavior and food security, the strength of these relationships tends to be weak. These findings indicate that the urban food desert concept developed in North American and UK cities may have limited relevance to measuring urban food insecurity in the Global South. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Food Deserts: Perspectives from the Global South)
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Open AccessArticle
The Food Desert as a Concept and Policy Tool in African Cities: An Opportunity and a Risk
Sustainability 2019, 11(2), 458; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020458 - 16 Jan 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
The idea that food insecurity can be resolved by increasing the presence of supermarkets has been gaining traction in African cities and has recently gained political traction in Africa. This paper interrogates the potential value and risks associated with the adoption of the [...] Read more.
The idea that food insecurity can be resolved by increasing the presence of supermarkets has been gaining traction in African cities and has recently gained political traction in Africa. This paper interrogates the potential value and risks associated with the adoption of the discourse of the food desert in the African context. The paper draws on findings from a households survey, neighborhoods-scale food retail mapping and surveys, and city-wide supermarket mapping conducted in Cape Town (South Africa), Kisumu (Kenya), and Kitwe (Zambia). Following a discussion of why the concept is gaining traction, the paper identifies false assumptions associated with the food desert framing in Africa, namely: supermarkets provide better access to healthier food, low-income areas have poor access to healthy food; and food security can be reduced to economic and physical accessibility. The paper concludes that although the food desert concept may be valuable for African researchers to provoke debates about systemic inequality, the food desert policy narrative should be rejected as it is ill-informed by the lived experiences of food insecurity in African cities and may promote policy interventions that erode rather than enhance the capacity of the food system to meet the food security needs of African urbanites. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Food Deserts: Perspectives from the Global South)
Open AccessArticle
Family Structure and Severe Food Insecurity in Maputo and Matola, Mozambique
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 267; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010267 - 07 Jan 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The rapid growth of Maputo and Matola (neighbouring cities in Mozambique) has dramatically shifted the vulnerability profiles of these cities. Poor neighbourhoods across these two cities may now face the prospect of becoming food deserts. Scholars have defined African urban food deserts by [...] Read more.
The rapid growth of Maputo and Matola (neighbouring cities in Mozambique) has dramatically shifted the vulnerability profiles of these cities. Poor neighbourhoods across these two cities may now face the prospect of becoming food deserts. Scholars have defined African urban food deserts by the co-occurrence of poverty and food insecurity. This study aims to assess the assumed relationship between resource poverty and food insecurity in the African urban food desert concept and to assess the contribution of household demographics to this relationship. Using household survey data collected in 2014 across Maputo and Matola, this investigation demonstrated that inconsistent access to water, electricity, medical care, cooking fuel, and cash was associated with increased odds of severe household food insecurity across both cities. In addition, a nuclear household family structure was associated with reduced odds of severe food insecurity in both cities (even when taking limited resource access into account). These findings suggest that the severe food insecurity vulnerabilities associated with African urban food deserts may differ according to the family structure of households in Maputo and Matola. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Food Deserts: Perspectives from the Global South)
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Open AccessArticle
Informal Food Deserts and Household Food Insecurity in Windhoek, Namibia
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010037 - 21 Dec 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Informal settlements in rapidly-growing African cities are urban and peri-urban spaces with high rates of formal unemployment, poverty, poor health outcomes, limited service provision, and chronic food insecurity. Traditional concepts of food deserts developed to describe North American and European cities do not [...] Read more.
Informal settlements in rapidly-growing African cities are urban and peri-urban spaces with high rates of formal unemployment, poverty, poor health outcomes, limited service provision, and chronic food insecurity. Traditional concepts of food deserts developed to describe North American and European cities do not accurately capture the realities of food inaccessibility in Africa’s urban informal food deserts. This paper focuses on a case study of informal settlements in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, to shed further light on the relationship between informality and food deserts in African cities. The data for the paper was collected in a 2016 survey and uses a sub-sample of households living in shack housing in three informal settlements in the city. Using various standard measures, the paper reveals that the informal settlements are spaces of extremely high food insecurity. They are not, however, food deprived. The proximity of supermarkets and open markets, and a vibrant informal food sector, all make food available. The problem is one of accessibility. Households are unable to access food in sufficient quantity, quality, variety, and with sufficient regularity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Food Deserts: Perspectives from the Global South)
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Open AccessArticle
Food Purchasing Characteristics and Perceptions of Neighborhood Food Environment of South Africans Living in Low-, Middle- and High-Socioeconomic Neighborhoods
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4801; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124801 - 16 Dec 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Using intercept surveys, we explored demographic and socioeconomic factors associated with food purchasing characteristics of supermarket shoppers and the perceptions of their neighborhood food environment in urban Cape Town. Shoppers (N = 422) aged ≥18 years, categorized by their residential socioeconomic areas (SEAs), [...] Read more.
Using intercept surveys, we explored demographic and socioeconomic factors associated with food purchasing characteristics of supermarket shoppers and the perceptions of their neighborhood food environment in urban Cape Town. Shoppers (N = 422) aged ≥18 years, categorized by their residential socioeconomic areas (SEAs), participated in a survey after shopping in supermarkets located in different SEAs. A subpopulation, out-shoppers (persons shopping outside their residential SEA), and in-shoppers (persons residing and shopping in the same residential area) were also explored. Fruits and vegetables (F&V) were more likely to be perceived to be of poor quality and healthy food not too expensive by shoppers from low- (OR = 6.36, 95% CI = 2.69, 15.03, p < 0.0001), middle-SEAs (OR = 3.42, 95% CI = 1.45, 8.04, p < 0.001) compared to the high-SEA shoppers. Low SEA shoppers bought F&V less frequently than high- and middle-SEA shoppers. Purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and snacks were frequent and similar across SEAs. Food quality was important to out-shoppers who were less likely to walk to shop, more likely to be employed and perceived the quality of F&V in their neighborhood to be poor. Food purchasing characteristics are influenced by SEAs, with lack of mobility and food choice key issues for low-SEA shoppers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Food Deserts: Perspectives from the Global South)
Open AccessArticle
Urban Food Sources and the Challenges of Food Availability According to the Brazilian Dietary Guidelines Recommendations
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4643; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124643 - 06 Dec 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
The study investigated availability and food sources in urban areas using elements of the NOVA food classification system, adopted by the Brazilian Dietary Guidelines, in a Brazilian municipality. In addition, the study also aimed to identify inequalities in the geographical distribution of food [...] Read more.
The study investigated availability and food sources in urban areas using elements of the NOVA food classification system, adopted by the Brazilian Dietary Guidelines, in a Brazilian municipality. In addition, the study also aimed to identify inequalities in the geographical distribution of food retailers that commercialize healthy and/or unhealthy foods. This cross-sectional study was performed in the municipality of Jundiai in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. Data from within-store audit and geographic data were used to characterizing the nutrition community environment. The mean was calculated for food items available in each of the four NOVA groups for each audited food retailer. The mean of food items available in each of the four NOVA groups for each audited food retail were calculated. The density and proportion of different types of food retailers were georeferenced. The supermarkets, medium market stores, and grocery stores presented the highest availability of unprocessed foods as well as ultra-processed foods. Establishments that sold primarily unprocessed foods and included a fruits and vegetables section at the entrance of the store had a greater availability of healthy foods, but their density in the territory was low compared to establishments that prioritized the sale of ultra-processed foods and sold ultra-processed foods in the checkout area. Especially in middle- and low-income areas, the concentration of food retailers with priority sale of ultra-processed products is reaches 22 times higher than the sale of unprocessed or minimally processed foods. The study supported the identification of regions where it was necessary to improve access to equipment that marketed unprocessed foods as a priority. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Food Deserts: Perspectives from the Global South)
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Open AccessArticle
Food Swamps and Poor Dietary Diversity: Longwave Development Implications in Southern African Cities
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4425; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124425 - 27 Nov 2018
Abstract
While the literature on food deserts focuses on limited availability of food in urban settings, ‘food swamps’ may better characterize the extensive prevalence and accessibility of cheap, highly processed foods. For urban populations, access to nutritionally inadequate poor-quality food has dire developmental consequences. [...] Read more.
While the literature on food deserts focuses on limited availability of food in urban settings, ‘food swamps’ may better characterize the extensive prevalence and accessibility of cheap, highly processed foods. For urban populations, access to nutritionally inadequate poor-quality food has dire developmental consequences. The long-wave impacts of malnutrition at gestational and early childhood stages are negative and can be non-reversible. Moreover, those who survive into adulthood may face a lifetime of sub-optimal physical and mental development that undermines the second and third UN Sustainable Development Goals—to end hunger and to ensure healthy lives. This paper assesses the long-term health vulnerability of children with limited access to adequate and nutritious food in rapidly urbanizing cities. The analysis focuses on the African Urban Food Security Network (AFSUN) data drawn from 6453 household surveys in 11 cities and nine countries in Southern Africa. The results indicate that children in these households are consuming a limited diversity of food, have limited access to resources and have greater odds of experiencing both short-term and long-term food and nutrition insecurity. These findings demonstrate an underlying vulnerability to long-term health impacts stemming from nutritionally inadequate diets, with potentially significant costs to human capital. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Food Deserts: Perspectives from the Global South)
Open AccessArticle
The Impact of Proximity to Wet Markets and Supermarkets on Household Dietary Diversity in Nanjing City, China
Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1465; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051465 - 08 May 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
This study investigated the influence of the proximity to wet markets and supermarkets on urban household dietary diversity in Nanjing. Based on the data collected through a citywide survey in 2015 and the map data of wet markets and supermarkets, the Poisson regression [...] Read more.
This study investigated the influence of the proximity to wet markets and supermarkets on urban household dietary diversity in Nanjing. Based on the data collected through a citywide survey in 2015 and the map data of wet markets and supermarkets, the Poisson regression model was deployed to examine the correlations between geographical proximity to supermarkets and wet markets and household dietary diversity. The result shows that the coefficients for the distance to the nearest wet market are not statistically significant. Although the coefficients for the distance to nearest supermarket are statistically significant, they were too minor to reach a practical importance. We argue, however, that the insignificant correlations reflect exactly the high physical accessibility to food outlets and the extensive spatially dense food supply network constituted by wet markets, supermarkets and small food stores in Nanjing, due in part to the food infrastructure development planning in Nanjing that has ensured relatively equal and convenient access to wet markets or supermarkets for all households. Our findings are verified by the survey data that more than 90% of households purchased fresh food items within their neighborhoods or in walking distance. In addition to the densely distributed food outlets, various other factors contributed to the non-significant influence of the distance to the nearest wet market and supermarket, in particular, the numerous small food stores within or close to residential communities, the prevalence of three-generation extended household structure and the high household income. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Food Deserts: Perspectives from the Global South)
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