“Measurement drives diagnosis and response”: Gaps in transferring food security assessment to the urban scale
This paper (PDF) in the Food Policy journal highlights the urban transition and attendant food security challenges, and reflects on existing food security measurement methods in the urban context. The understanding of food security has seen major shifts since the original conceptualisations of the challenge. These changes in understanding have been accompanied by different food security measurement approaches. The world has become increasingly urbanised and the developing world is experiencing its own urban transition, but changes in food security measurement remain predominantly informed by a rural understanding of food security. Where urban measurement does take place, rural-oriented measurement approaches are adopted, occluding critical urban challenges and systemic drivers. At the urban scale, a food system assessment is argued to be one appropriate tool to respond to urban food insecurity while at the same time providing both the “breadth and depth” to inform effective food security programming and policy interventions. What is required is a different scale of assessment, one that draws on the realities of the individual and the household, but then integrates these issues with other food system and urban structural issues at scales that extent well beyond the household. Theoretically, questions of scale, context and a critique of the rural bias in food systems work are essential informants guiding the approaches applied. City managers, food system actors and urban political actors have a far greater role to play in the rapidly transforming urban food system. The increasingly negative food security indicators at the urban scale mean that this is an area requiring drastic attention. This has to engage the issue form the city scale, not a top down uniform national policy response. The urban context, the multi-dimensionality of food security and the rate of change, all mean that single measurement approaches are no longer adequate.