Exploring supply chain issues affecting food access and security among urban poor in South Africa

Virva Tuomala*, David B. Grant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Access to food through retail supply chain distribution can vary significantly among the urban poor and leads to household food insecurity. The paper explores this sustainable supply chain phenomenon through a field study among South Africa's urban poor.
Urban metabolic flows is the theoretical basis in the context of supply chain management (SCM). The field study comprised 59 semi-structured interviews in one South African township. Data were recorded, transcribed and translated, and coded using NVivo 12 to provide an inventory of eight themes categorized and patterned from the analysis.
Findings indicate societal factors play a significant role affecting food distribution, access and security from a spatial perspective of retail outlet locations and a nutritional standpoint regarding quality and quantity of food.
Research limitations/implications
The study is exploratory in one township, and while rigorously conducted, the generalizability of findings is limited to this context.
Practical implications
The study practically contributes by providing guidance for food retailers and policymakers to include nutritional guidelines in their distribution planning, as well as the dynamics of diverse neighbourhoods that exist in modern urban contexts.
Social implications
New forms of retail food distribution can provide better security and access to food for the urban poor, contributing to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2 Zero Hunger and 11 Liveable Cities.
The study is interdisciplinary and contributes by linking UN SDGs and SCM through urban metabolic flows from development studies as an overarching framework to enable analysis of relationships between physical, social and economic factors in the urban environment.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalThe International Journal of Logistics Management
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 20.10.2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • food access and security
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • food retail supply chain distribution
  • urban metabolic flows

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics


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