The world is urbanising rapidly, and malnutrition in urban areas (including both undernutrition and overweight/obesity) is an increasing problem. City policymakers in all countries are well placed to address urban malnutrition by virtue of their access to a wide variety of policy-level entry-points to food access and physical activity. Developing effective policies and programmes to address malnutrition requires coordinated action across sectors within city governments and the involvement of urban stakeholders, such as the private sector, civil society, and academia. Despite recent advances on integrated and urban food policies, work on urban governance for nutrition is still in its infancy. To address the increasing incidence of urban malnutrition, we argue that is necessary to further develop a definition and desired process and outcomes that characterise urban governance for nutrition.
We thus review the literature on global urban governance of food systems, food security, and nutrition, as well as how food and nutrition governance is put into practice, focussing on low- and middle- income countries. Definitions often focus on either the activities or actors involved in governance, or on the presence or absence of certain indicators. In practice, governance often takes the form of urban food and nutrition strategies or food policy councils, with challenges such as lack of political will, the complexity of adopting a systemic approach to food and nutrition, and competing interests of multiple stakeholders.
We define urban governance for nutrition as “the process of making and implementing decisions that shape food systems to deliver better nutrition for people in cities” and recommend that cities prioritise malnutrition mitigation in their policies, plans, and actions and that the right mix of actors drives this process, adhering to four principles.