Poor urban residents, especially slum-dwellers, face unique food security and nutritional challenges related to accessing nutritious food, employment, social protection, and adequate water and sanitation. Food security in urban areas requires access to cash, which jeopardises the poor, who depend heavily on unstable, informal sector employment. In many developing countries, extremely poor urban households spend more than 50 per cent of their budgets on food. Limited safety nets often fail to protect the poor, while food security and nutrition problems are aggravated by an unhealthy living environment, especially in slums.

Growing population, changing diets

Urbanisation is also accelerating the “dietary transition” involving increased shares of animal-sourced foods, sugars, fats and oils, salt and processed foods in consumption baskets. This change in diets is associated with increased risks of overweight, obesity and diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. The most easily available and affordable diets, particularly for the urban poor, are often unhealthy.