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Beyond the food desert: finding ways to speak about urban food security in South Africa

Author: Jane Battersby
Organisation: University of Cape Town
Publish Date: 2012
Country: South Africa
Sector: Community
Method: Anticipating
Theme: Food
Type: Article
Language: English
Tags: Urban food security, Food deserts, Food insecurity, Cape Town survey, Food sources

Urban food security is a significant development challenge in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the field is currently under -researched and under-theorized. Urban food insecurity, where it is considered, has been viewed through a development studies lens that views food insecurity as a household-scale problem. There has been significant focus on food deserts in developed countries as one way of engaging with such insecurity. The food deserts research views food insecurity through a social exclusion and food justice lens. This article introduces the food desert concept to provide a conceptual tool to begin to understand the spatial determinants of urban food insecurity, which are not well captured by the existing framings of food security in the region. Using data from a 2008 household food security survey conducted in Cape Town, the paper highlights gaps in the food deserts approach, most significantly its neglect of non-market sources of food and of household decision-making processes. The paper therefore concludes by suggesting a new approach which takes the household’s assets, abilities and decision-making as the starting point and overlays this with the market and non-market foodscapes accessed by these households.
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