For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. This has profound implications for global trends in poverty, food security and nutrition and for global and local food systems. This chapter reviews the status of poverty, food security and malnutrition in urban compared to rural areas; provides an overview of the unique challenges and opportunities for urban dwellers to generate income and achieve food security and nutrition; and discusses the implications for urban programs, policies and research. Our review confirms that the location of poverty is rapidly shifting from rural to urban areas and that food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms are highly prevalent among urban dwellers. Particularly alarming are the rapid rises in overweight and obesity in urban areas, while undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies persist. Our review highlights critical gaps in knowledge and understanding of the distinctive factors and conditions that shape poverty, food security and nutrition in urban areas; it calls for new research to better document how food systems affect the nutrition transition, as well as urban diets and nutrition, and how, in turn, the food system could be leveraged to prevent future deterioration. We conclude that in order to counter the rising challenge of the nutrition transition and to achieve zero hunger and malnutrition, policymakers and programmers must be equipped with better data to design adequate programs and policies that: (1) support increased food availability and access of the urban poor to healthy, nutritious and safe foods and stimulate demand for healthy diets; (2) promote and facilitate physical activity; (3) promote and support urban agriculture and safe, affordable and nutritious street foods; (4) create income-generating opportunities for urban dwellers, including women, and use tailored and well-targeted social safety net programs as needed; (5) ease trade-offs for working women; and (6) improve access of poor urban dwellers to high-quality health care, water, sanitation, waste removal and electricity services.
- Food security
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The terms “urban” and “rural” are used in this chapter, as used in the original publications. We recognize that the distinction between urban and rural is not clear-cut and that a variety of definitions are used in the literature, some based on administrative criteria, others on different combinations of size, aspects of density or economic activity [2, 3], while many publications do not specify the definitions they use.
In this paper, we use the term “malnutrition” to refer to problems of both undernutrition (deficiencies in protein, emergy and/or micronutrients) and overweight and obesity.
No recent data on prevalence, numbers and trends in urban and rural poverty were found.
These statistics are outdated, but our search did not identify more recent global estimates of urban and rural poverty.
This study uses food consumption data from nationally representative household expenditure surveys to measure food security (defined as percentage of the population that does not consume sufficient dietary energy). The main difference between this approach and the widely used indicator of “undernourishment” developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is that the Smith and colleagues’ approach uses actual survey data from food consumption/expenditure, whereas the FAO method is based on modeling using countries’ food supply data. To define insufficient dietary energy, both methods rely on FAO/WHO/UNU 1985 “recommended energy intakes,” which are age and sex specific, and different for 3 levels of physical activity: light, medium and high. (Reference: FAO/WHO/UNU 1985. Protein and energy requirements. Rome: FAO).
Data source: International Center for Equity in Health (www.equidade.org).
The demographic transition involves a shift from higher to lower levels of fertility and mortality. The epidemiological transition, first described by , involves a shift from patterns of high prevalence of infectious diseases, associated with malnutrition and poor environmental sanitation, to ones of high prevalence of chronic, non-transmissible diseases [32, 33].
Consumption of total fats and oils has greatly increased in developing countries since the 1970s, even as consumption of animal fats has declined. Globally, there have been major increases in domestic production and trade in oilseeds and vegetable oil. This has been due to new technologies for oilseed production and refining processes, health concerns about consumption of animal fats and cholesterol, as well as government policies [32, 33, 39].
Physical inactivity was defined as being engaged in vigorous-intensity physical activity for less than 20 min per day on at least 3 days per week, or less than 30 min per day of moderate-intensity physical activity on at least 5 days per week, or 600 MET-minutes/week combining both criteria. MET (the metabolic equivalent of task) is a physiological measure expressing the energy cost (or calories) of physical activities. One MET is the energy equivalent expended by an individual while seated at rest. While exercising, the MET equivalent is the energy expended compared to rest; an activity with a MET value of 5 means expending 5 times the energy than the individual would while at rest. MET minutes are derived by multiplying the number of METs for an activity by the number of minutes a person is engaged in this activity. http://www.cooperinstitute.org/2012/04/met-minutes-a-simple-common-value-to-track-exercise-progress/, accessed on February 29, 2016.
The countries and year of survey included were for Asia: Bangladesh 1993 and Pakistan 1991; for Africa: Ghana 1993, Senegal 1992/93, Tanzania 1991/92, Zambia 1992; and for Latin America: Brazil 1996, Colombia 1995, Dominican Republic 1991, Guatemala 1995 and Peru 1992.
World Bank, ASPIRE project: http://datatopics.worldbank.org/aspire/, accessed June 24, 2015.
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WHO/UNICEF (2014) uses the following definition for an improved drinking water source: “…one that, by the nature of its construction, adequately protects the source from outside contamination, particularly faecal matter.” Included in this grouping are (1) “piped water on premises: piped household water connection located inside the user’s dwelling, plot, or yard,” and (2) “other improved drinking water sources: public taps or standpipes, tube wells or boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs, rainwater collection.”
WHO/UNICEF (2014) uses the following definition for an improved sanitation facility: “…one that hygienically separates human excreta from human contact.” Included in this grouping are facilities that “flush/pour flush to piped sewer system, septic tank, pit latrine; ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine; pit latrine with slab; composting toilet.” Facilities that are public or shared between households are not grouped as improved.
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This chapter is a rewrite of “Rapid Urbanization and the Challenges of Obtaining Food and Nutrition Security,” a chapter originally published in 2006 in this same book. We would like to thank Lawrence Haddad, one of the co-authors of the previous version of this chapter, and Lilia Bliznashka for her invaluable research assistance. Both are in the Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Funding support was provided by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), led by IFPRI.
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Ruel, M.T., Garrett, J., Yosef, S., Olivier, M. (2017). Urbanization, Food Security and Nutrition. In: de Pee, S., Taren, D., Bloem, M. (eds) Nutrition and Health in a Developing World . Nutrition and Health. Humana Press, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-43739-2_32
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