Food Systems and Diet-Related NCDS in Cape Town, South Africa

Food Systems and Diet-Related NCDS in Cape Town, South Africa, by researcher Jo Hunter-Adams is the first in a series of Nourishing Spaces working papers edited by Jane Battersby.

ABSTRACT

The aim of this working paper is to offer insight into the lived experience of changing food systems and diet-related non-communicable disease (NCDs) in a low-income neighbourhood in peri-urban Cape Town. The lived experience of changing food systems is central to understanding local contexts, a focal point for reducing incidence and improving experiences of diet-related NCDs, and a lever for action. This analysis represents part of a broader three-year Nourishing Spaces study.

Through a participatory research process engaging local government officials and community food system stakeholders, Nourishing Spaces analyses data on diet-related NCDs; conducts research on food systems, consumption and NCDs (and the relationships among them); and examines the governance arrangements underpinning existing dynamics. It seeks ultimately to present two policy and governance approaches to prevent NCDs, firstly to capacitate local government to develop interventions to create generative urban food systems, and secondly to test the viability of neighbourhood-centred Food Systems Committees. The Nourishing Spaces project sites are neighbourhoods in Cape Town and Kimberley (South Africa), Windhoek and Oshakati (Namibia), and Nairobi and Kisumu (Kenya). The choice of primary and secondary cities was motivated by differential rates of nutrition transition and food systems change across Africa, with South Africa being particularly far along in this transition.

This working paper represents an overview of the findings from our analysis, with a particular focus on potential for policy that is responsive to the types of issues driving diet-related NCDs. We first provide background on local food systems and diet-related NCD contexts both internationally and in South Africa. We then detail the methods used and describe the research sites. The description of key findings is structured as a brief overview of common foods consumed, analyses of perceptions of ‘choice’ within the food system, experiences of changing urban infrastructure (including electricity and transportation), the context of rural-urban migration, experiences of diet in relation to health, and perspectives on health within the neighbourhood. Finally, we consider how this analysis relates to existing policy.

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