Why is everyone talking about Food in Cities?

Have you ever moved away from the place called home to a different city, town or country? Did you bring along ingredients to cook your desired ethno-cultural food, what about knowledge and skills on food preparation, consumption and nutritional content? If not, what foods did you eat and how did you find the ingredients and recipes to prepare the food? These are some of the questions immigrants ponder while in new urban environments, the same issues that I focus on in my blog posts, newsletters and books.

Globally, urbanization is on the rise, and that means increases in the number and diversity of people in towns and cities. Population projections indicate that by 2050, up to 70 percent of the world population will live in urban areas. Apart from the concern on where the people will reside, work or walk; is the question of what food they will eat to stay healthy.

Why worry about diversity in food and staying healthy?

Food, a basic human need has become a double-edged sword. Food nourishes our bodies and is identified as a contributing factor in the rising cases of malnutrition, overweight and obesity which are attributed to changes in diet and lifestyle.

There are many reasons for immigrants in cities to talk about food and healthy lifestyles. Cities pull together people from different social-economic backgrounds and cultural practices around food. How will people in cities access desired food items that vary in nutritional value, aroma and taste, yet urban growth is closely associated with the advent of the food industry, fast food and food with monolithic tastes?

@Omosa EK, 2017

@Omosa EK, 2017

Information from personal experience and research point to an association between transition to a high-income Western diet and people being overweight and obese, with related diseases of Cardiovascular (heart disease and stroke), Hypertension (blood pressure), Type 2 Diabetes, and some cancers. Immigrants, especially those from rural environments to cities are at more risk of not consuming. So far; 

  • Food choices of newcomers to cities tend to be limited to easily available and affordable food items which tend to be over-processed, contain more sugar and fats and are limited in variety.
  • Newcomers lack information on places where to purchase familiar food items and at affordable prices, hence, they resort to whatever food is accessible.
  • Transitioning into a new environment results in newcomers leading a busy life, subsequently, they lack time to find and cook desired food items, and find ready to eat fast food a time saver.

The new reality of food being a source of nutrients for the body, a cause of disease, and a market commodity, calls for individuals and groups to stay informed and involved in the on-going conversation on the future of food.

What are your concerns about food, diversity and a healthy lifestyle in cities? Please click below to leave a comment.

This article was first published, August 9th, 2016