Urban diets and nutrition

Recent decades have seen unprecedented population growth in urban areas. 66 per cent of the world’s population is projected to be living in cities by 2050. The additional 2.5 billion urban residents will live primarily in Africa and Asia. This is leading to a growing crisis of urban malnutrition where overweight and obesity, undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies co-exist.

Without decisive action, the nutrition crisis in urban areas across low- and middle-income countries will deepen over the next decade in response to multiple pressures such as globalization, migration, population growth, income inequality, pressures on land and water for food production, and climate change.

Only by acting now can policymakers avoid locking in future burdens for health, well-being and economic development. 

This policy brief

The policy brief: "Urban diets and nutrition: Trends, challenges and opportunities for policy action" looks at the challenge of providing healthy diets in urban environments, presenting eight policy recommendations which integrate actions from food, agriculture and nutrition into urban planning, education, health, sanitation, water and infrastructure development. In brief:

  1. Make high-quality diets a priority for both urban and rural populations.
  2. Empower urban policymakers at local level to take a leading role in championing better diets and nutrition.
  3. Capitalize on the opportunities for influence offered by urban food systems, for example with campaigns and regulations on product labelling, advertising and promotion.
  4. Connect with wider areas of policy that affect urban food systems and nutrition, such as infrastructure, housing, transport and access to water and sanitation.
  5. Address the needs of different urban population groups to achieve improved consumer access and dietary choice.
  6. Change attitudes to the informal food sector – working to improve it rather than penalise it.
  7. Give more attention to the specific challenges associated with rising rates of overweight and obesity.
  8. Carefully measure, rigorously analyse and quickly disseminate efforts to tackle urban health and nutrition challenges.

Full details here.

“There is an urgent need to have better urban governance around food, nutrition and health. Urban populations need improved information on how to live well by eating well.”

Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Global Panel Member, and President, African Development Bank.

The brief was launched on the eve of the Laureate Award Ceremony, at the World Food Prize, Des Moines. See press release of the event.

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PDF icon Urbanization brief1.9 MB
PDF icon Urbanization brief summary2.89 MB
PDF icon Press Release574.99 KB