Food systems are pervaded with inequities, from production to consumption. Despite massive gains in crop yields over the last half century, we’re now seeing rising levels of hunger and malnutrition across the world. Vulnerable and marginalised people in richer and poorer countries alike are struggling to access decent affordable food, largely due to the impacts of three ‘C’s – Covid-19, conflict and climate change – which are exacerbating pre-existing structural inequities related to the uneven distribution of power and resources.
That is why at IDS we have a strategic priority to transform knowledge and action on global food equity, and why with partners we established the Food Equity Centre, which brings together researchers, activists and affected communities from the global North and South to share research and mutual learning. This page brings together a snapshot of IDS research on food and food equity across four key themes.
Why do some people have access to diverse and healthy diets while others do not? What are the lifelong and intergenerational consequences of these situations? These are questions that are central to why we care about food equity.
IDS work on nutrition and food equity aims to understand and addressing dietary inequalities and their roots in inequality and inequity.
- Holding no-one back: The nutrition equity framework in theory and practice (Journal Article)
- Remembering and acting on ‘Malnutrition’: A Latin American network to foster deep learning on nutrition interventions past and present (Project)
- Stories of change in nutrition: lessons from a new generation of studies from Africa, Asia and Europe (Journal Article)
- Addressing Malnutrition: The importance of political economy analysis of power (Journal Article)
Food systems provide livelihood opportunities for an estimated 4.5 billion people across the world. Many of these are economically marginalised small-scale farmers who are vulnerable to the risk of increasing climate vulnerability and food insecurity, and face challenges in accessing land, credit and resources because of social, economic and political structures. IDS works to better understand these issues as other issues faced by marginalised people working across agri-food value chains.
IDS work on food livelihoods aims to gain a holistic and useful understanding of food system livelihoods and the inequities in them.
- Insights into smallholder capacity for agricultural commercialisation: Evidence from four African contexts (Journal Article)
- How do land and food policies in West Asia and North Africa affect pastoralists? (Opinion)
- Livelihood outcomes of agricultural commercialisation, women’s empowerment and rural employment (Opinion)
- Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) (Project)
Justice and resilience
Understanding how people prepare for and adapt to inequities in the food system is a common thread across our work. From livestock farmers in northern Kenya, to small food businesses across sub-Saharan Africa and south Adia, we explore how individuals, communities and institutions are building resilience.
But the concept of resilience can be controversial, as it can come at the expense of resisting injustice or marginalisation. Our work also examines the structural imbalances and power imbalances driving these disparities.
- Just food transitions from the bottom up in Brazil and the UK (Opinion)
- Catching plastic: Mumbai’s Koli community uses fishing-nets to tackle pollution (Blog)
- Martyrdom of the Cerrado: An agri-food territory in need on justice (Policy Briefing)
- Pastoralism, Uncertainty and Resilience: Global Lessons from the Margins (Project)
The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic are still having major effects on households’ production and access to quality, nutritious food. This is due to losses of income combined with increasing food prices, and restrictions on the movement of people and produce. Covid-19 affected all stages of the food supply chain, but took a heavier toll on those in the informal sector, particularly women, including migrant workers, waste-pickers, sex workers and street vendors.
IDS work on food equity in the aftermath of Covid-19 looks at how these marginalised groups can be centred in food system reform and researches adaptive social protection measures that target women and young people in the informal food sectors hit hard by Covid-19.
- How did Covid-19 affect food and nutrition security of migrant workers in Northern Vietnam (Working Paper)
- Strenghthening food security in pakistan during the Covid-19 pandemic (Impact Story)
- The impact of Covid-19 on livelihoods and food security (Research Report)
- Food systems after Covid-19 (Journal Article)
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