Enabling actions to improve the food environment

This paper posits the urban food environment as an extremely useful policy-making framework for developing actions to improve nutrition, as it is the point at which people and food interact. It describes the nutritional challenges of urban areas and how urban food environments influence nutrition through the affordability, physical access to, convenience and desirability of healthy foods. Consequently, governments can use a range of mechanisms to influence the urban food environment, as this paper illustrates.

However, there are significant challenges to developing, applying and scaling up such food-environment interventions.

Because of the complexity of governments and governance, further work is required to improve understanding of

  1. how interventions can be designed and delivered in different contexts;
  2. which mechanisms governments can use;
  3. how existing interventions can be evaluated, in particular, the extent to which they are meeting the needs of low-income consumers; and
  4. how best to develop new cities to optimize nutrition outcomes for urban communities.

This publication is part of the UNSCN publication ‘Food environments: Where people meet the food system’.



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