Do Urban Food Deserts Exist in the Global South? An Analysis of Nairobi and Mexico City


Jeremy Wagner, Lucy Hinton, Cameron McCordic, Samuel Owuor, Guénola Capron and Salomón Gonzalez Arellano

Recent conceptualizations of ‘food deserts’ have expanded from a sole focus on access to supermarkets, to food retail outlets, to all household food sources. Each iteration of the urban food desert concept has associated this kind of food sourcing behavior to poverty, food insecurity, and dietary diversity characteristics. While the term continues to evolve, there has been little empirical evidence to test whether these assumed associations hold in cities of the Global South. This paper empirically tests the premises of three iterations of the urban food desert concept using household survey data collected in Nairobi, Kenya, and Mexico City, Mexico. While these associations are statistically significant and show the expected correlation direction between household food sourcing behavior and food security, the strength of these relationships tends to be weak. These findings indicate that the urban food desert concept developed in North American and UK cities may have limited relevance to measuring urban food insecurity in the Global South.


Featured City: Mexico City, Mexico, Nairobi, Kenya

Featured Country: Kenya, Mexico

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