From corn to popcorn? Urbanization and dietary change: Evidence from rural-urban migrants in Tanzania
This article (PDF) in the World Development journal aims to study the extent to which changes in the structure of diets may be attributable to moving to an urban environment and explore what this could imply for the wider debate on urbanization and dietary change. There is rising concern that urbanization will have profound effects on eating patterns and increase the risk of nutrition-related non-communicable diseases. Yet, the understanding of urbanization as a driver of changes in food consumption remains limited. The Tanzania National Panel Survey allows to compare individuals’ dietary patterns before and after relocation from rural to urban areas and assess whether those changes differ from household members who stayed behind. The study shows that moving to an urban area does not have significant effects on the intake of fats, animal-source foods, and dietary diversity. However, individuals who moved to urban areas do experience a more shift away from the consumption of traditional staples, towards high-sugar, more conveniently consumed and prepared foods. These effects occur across urban locations ranging from smaller secondary towns to large cities. The factors underlying these changes in dietary patterns upon moving demonstrate that a substantial part of the impact of relocating to an urban area is related to the transition out of farming, differences in food prices, and especially income changes. The latter appears to explain the more pronounced growth of unhealthy food consumption after rural-urban migration. As such, health concerns over diets can be expected to spread to less urbanized areas as soon as income growth takes off there. More research is needed on the extent and consequences of changes in diets related to living in more urbanized areas that may contribute to improved projections on food demand and help to improve health and food and nutrition security policies as well as agricultural and trade strategies.