Poor Nutrition Risk on the Rise in Urban Areas

October 24, 2017 10:08 AM
Mozambique Corn Field

By Megan Tyminski
This article is a part of the University of Missouri's Ag Journalism program's coverage of the 2017 World Food Prize.

DES MOINES, Iowa — In the effort to obtain food security, the nutritional value of a daily meal is often overlooked.

“Food systems really need to move from feeding people to nourishing people,” Sandy Thomas, director of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, said during the 2017 Borlaug Dialog International Symposium.

Both rural farmers and urban residents suffer from malnutrition, however with 66 percent of the world’s population projected to be urban by 2050, according to a new brief, there is a growing urban malnutrition crisis.

The brief, Urban diets and nutrition: trends, challenges, and opportunities for policy action, launched on Oct. 18 by the Global Panel, examines the correlation between rising urban populations and malnutrition. The ‘triple burden’ of malnutrition — under-nutrition, micro nutrient deficiency and obesity — will be most concentrated in Africa and Asia as 2.5 billion new residents migrate to cities.

Key issues, the Global Panel said, are rebalancing high-quality diets, mandating and empowering local authorities, considering infrastructure and transportation improvements, regulating labeling and advertising, and measuring all efforts.

“You [can] have enough food, but not nutrition security,” Tom Arnold, former director general of the Institute of International and European Affairs, said.


Malnutrition in Urban Populations


In diverse and multifaceted urban communities, diets, housing and income levels can vary greatly. These populations are often overlooked due to the focus on smallholder farmers in rural areas.

“This involves a whole range of people that we in food security aren’t familiar dealing with,” Emmy Simmons, senior advisor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.


Urban Diets


The complex issues in urban food systems need researched, multi-stakeholder input that focuses on issues as well as opportunities, the Global Panel said. The panel urged policymakers to “act without delay” due to the risks of conflict, diseases and stunted economies, in addition to poor human health, associated with insufficient nutrition.

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