Food Equity at IDS

Published on 10 October 2022

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.

A photo of fresh fruits and vegetables
A fruit and vegetable market. Credits: World Bank via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


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.

An Agricultural worker carries a haybale
A agricultural worker carries wheat through a field. Credits World Bank via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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.

Patoralists hearding their animals
Pastoralists leading their flock Credits: Nipun Prabhakar


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.

Women vendors selling food on the roadside
Women selling food roadside during the Covid-19 pandemic. Credits: World Bank via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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