SOAS University of London

Department of Economics

Food, Nutrition and Health in Development

This research cluster encompasses work on food, nutrition and health in development at both the macro and micro levels. It includes work at the regional, national and household levels as well as engaging with the effects of global trends on national and household food security, and nutrition and health status.

Work on food has a strong emphasis on food security and food sovereignty at the regional, national and household level. Research on national food security focuses on policy choices between trade-based food security strategies i.e. food imports versus domestic food production and the socio-economic implications as well as the geo-politics of each strategy. It also looks at the more recent trend of achieving national food supplies via land acquisition overseas in land and water abundant host countries. Policy responses to global trends, such as the 2007/8 and 2011 global food price spikes and export embargoes, form an important part of the cluster’s work. This entails analysis of recent policy changes whereby countries are focusing on macro level food sovereignty strategies which move away from trade-based approaches to food security. The cluster has a strong regional focus on food security and sovereignty in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Acknowledging that national food security is necessary but not sufficient for individual or household food security, the cluster also includes work at the micro level, where food security issues overlap with research on nutrition and health. Food consumption patterns and their influence by global and national players, such as food retailers, and the effect of changing consumption patterns on nutritional status form one strand of this work.  A second strand is the link between food acquisition and economic activity, particularly how agricultural production and labour market participation affect the ability to access food.  A third strand of work considers how the intra-household distribution of food is determined.  This work looks at issues such as the bargaining power of women in the household, as well as at the difference in male and female consumption patterns.  This overall body of work has a strong regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa.

Finally, this research cluster is interested in the overall health and nutrition outcomes of particular food systems and policy approaches.  This can be investigated at macro, sectoral and micro levels.  Thus, we may want to draw links between the impact on farmworker health and the nature of agricultural policy, e.g. a move to labour intensive, cash cropping, or towards certification, or ‘small holder’ promotion.  Or, at the household level, we can try to understand nutritional outcomes as the combination of various patterns of food access in the light of women’s reproductive burdens, government social policy and the prevailing economic system.

Food, Nutrition and Health in Development Blog