Researching Small Food Vendors in Nanjing, China

Ning Dai

Nov. 20 2017

Initially I proposed to examine the relations between the formal and informal sectors, i.e., between supermarkets and street food markets, but the foodscape turns out much more complex. Over the recent years several new types of food outlets have been spreading in Nanjing . To name them, the renovated traditional wet markets as below, 

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mobile street food markets that sell wild vegetables they collect in the city,

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unregistered storefronts in run-down houses,

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registered and government-subsidized “affordable food stores” with a screen on the wall displaying their cheap prices,

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modern community food stores,

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upscale organic food stores that sell by their known quality and safety guarantee (in modern/upscale stores everything is wrapped in plastic).

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and online fresh food stores that deliver food directly to your home within an hour of your order,

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Given the diversity and density of food retail outlets in Nanjing, my hunch is that the physical accessibility to food is not a significant challenge to average residents, but access to safe and affordable foods is more of a concern. Moreover, competition within the retail market tightens as some traditional markets go through expensive renovations and lift food prices, while modern food stores intentionally lower their price to enter the market and sell membership cards to maintain loyal customers. 

Currently I’m closely following with the recently set up food safety inspection rooms and different stakeholders’ response to that, in order to draw a comparison between different retail outlets in terms of safety and affordability.