Working Group on Food Environments
The Food Environment Working Group seeks to bring together leading experts in the field of food environment research to synthesise existing knowledge, understanding, methods, metrics, concepts, and definitions.
The food system brings global, national and regional processes to local geographies of consumption. These processes shape availability, accessibility and affordability of foods, and as such it is becoming increasingly pertinent to disentangle and quantify the multiple elements that constitute food environments and local food systems.
The Food Environment is a concept that unites research around food systems, food procurement and consumption patterns, food policy and public health. Motivated by increasingly obesogenic environments, patterns of overconsumption and rising non-communicable disease prevalence, a significant body of literature from high-income countries has sought to characterise and measure “food environments” in relation to diet and health. However, little has been done in the context of low and middle-income countries (LMICs) where transitioning food systems and processes are particularly dynamic and complex, and where persistent malnutrition in all its forms continues to contribute to the burden of non-communicable disease (including under-nutrition and rising rates of nutrition-related chronic disease).
Despite decades of urbanisation, structural transformation, and nutrition transition, LMIC food environments and the food procurement strategies of at risk populations remain under-researched and poorly understood. In addition, the extent to which the prevailing food environment definitions, frameworks and metrics are applicable to LMIC contexts characterised by formal and informal markets and the dual burden of malnutrition in all its forms is yet to be determined.
News from the group
Above: Chris Turner leads the Food Environments Working Group session at ANH2016
The Food Environments Working Group is investigating different avenues for the scope of research. For this purpose a systematic literature review in methods and metrics in food environments research has been conducted, the results of which will be discussed at the next working group meeting. The literature search aims to guide the discussion and to assist the group in developing a focus for the technical brief which is envisioned to provide solid evidence in ways that food environments research should move forward.
Earlier this year Chris Turner led a Food Environments Working Group session at the Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy Week in Addis Ababa. Details of this session and other proceedings from the week will be available soon in the official ANH Academy Week report.
Dr. Suneetha Kadiyala and Christopher Turner, LSHTM
Dr. Anju Aggarwal, University of Washington
Dr. Adam Drewnowski, University of Washington
Dr. Corinna Hawkes, City University
Dr. Anna Herforth, FAO
Dr. Helen Walls, LSHTM
Drawing from a wealth of food environment research primarily situated in high income countries (HICs), the group will focus on nurturing methods and metrics that are applicable to food environments in low and middle income countries (LMICs).
The Working Group will:
- Conduct a critical and comprehensive assessment of the applicability of definitions, frameworks and metrics predominantly used within this area of research to rapidly changing LMIC contexts
- Propose a way forward to harmonise definitions, frameworks and metrics to extend the food environment research to LMICs.
The Working Group’s output is envisioned to be an authoritative academic journal article on this topic that will serve as a guide to research in this area. Following the finalisation of the journal article, the ANH Academy will support the production of a technical brief to facilitate research uptake.
Read Anna Herforth's blog: 'Food environments: The missing piece in achieving food security'