Underlying social factors in urban food security

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


This paper reports on an empirical study of societal factors that influence urban food security in the food supply chain in poor neighbourhoods. Urban dwellers are food buyers and thus the role of the food supply chain and grocery retail is paramount in terms of providing food security. This study approaches this issue from the perspective of the food retailers and social workers working with urban dwellers in the poor neighbourhoods to provide a holistic perspective of urban food security and supply chain nexus.

Research Design/Methodology/Approach
This empirical study was conducted in a poor neighbourhood, known as a township, in the Western Cape, South Africa. Ten semi-structured interviews were conducted with food retailers and retail experts in the South African grocery market and social workers working in the township. Secondary data regarding the South African grocery market was also used to underpin the primary research.

Findings/Research and Practical Implications
The food supply chain treats food as a commodity and operates with a goal of making profits for companies involved along the chain. However, the retail outputs from this supply chain is the main source of nutrition for urban populations and has significant societal impact through this function. Food retail wields notable power throughout the supply chain and can therefore influence societal repercussions within the food supply chain i.e. access to nutritious food for poor populations.

The Living Standards Measurement (LSM), a unique market research tool in South Africa, divides the demographic into ten segments, one being the lowest and ten the wealthiest. Township citizens are generally placed in LSM 1-4. Formal food retail outlets are clearly segmented towards certain LSMs. Limited buying power limits the selection of stores near townships, but there is an element of contradiction as the real buying power in terms of volume in South Africa is in the lower LSMs. Even so, there are eight times less grocery stores near townships compared to wealthier areas.

This study contributes to the urban food security, an under-researched topic, and food retail supply chain literature, highlighting the perspectives from both a disadvantaged community and the food retailers serving it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 11th International Conference on Logistics and Transport (ICLT)
EditorsT.T.T. Huong
Place of PublicationHanoi, Vietnam
PublisherForeign Trade University
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings
EventInternational Conference on Logistics & Transport (ICLT)
- Hanoi, Viet Nam
Duration: 14.11.201915.11.2019
Conference number: 11

Publication series

NameThe International Conference on Logistics and Transport (ICLT)
PublisherForeign Trade University, Hanoi Vietnam
ISSN (Print)2392-5728


  • 512 Business and Management

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

  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics


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