Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 169–182 | Cite as

A blind spot in food and nutrition security: where culture and social change shape the local food plate

  • Anna-Lisa NoackEmail author
  • Nicky R. M. Pouw


It is estimated that over 800 million people are hungry each day and two billion are suffering from the consequences of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. While a paradigm shift towards a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral approach to food and nutrition insecurity is emerging, technical approaches largely prevail to tackle the causes of hunger and malnutrition. Founded in original in-depth field research among smallholder farmers in southwest Kenya, we argue that incorporating cultural or social dimensions in this technical debate is imperative and that by systematically overlooking these dimensions, food insecurity cannot be accurately captured nor properly addressed. Based on a sub-location in rural southwest Kenya where the food plate is rapidly narrowing towards a high-calorie low nutrient diet and where over 80 % of households experience food shortages at least once a year, conclusions suggest that preferences, the local function of food, and the practices that emerge therefrom can affect the regularity of meals and their composition. The findings allow us to complement emerging research and program development with a more comprehensive and locally adapted approach to tackle food and nutrition insecurity.


Food security Nutrition security Nutrition transition 



Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Non-communicable disease


Scaling up nutrition


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Technical Cooperation and Investments Center (TCI)Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)RomeItaly
  2. 2.International Development Studies, Graduate School of Social SciencesUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamNetherlands

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