Menu ENN Search
Language: English Français

Impact evaluations of urban food policy and project interventions

This question was posted the Urban programming forum area and has 0 replies. You can also reply via email – be sure to leave the subject unchanged.

» Post a reply

James Tefft

Senior Economist - Food and Agriculture Org. UN

Normal user

28 Dec 2016, 17:06

I am looking for empirical analyses of urban-focused, policy and project interventions to address urban food insecurity and malnutrition.

Recent statistics based on food experience scales show that 50% of urban residents in low-income countries are food insecure compared to 43% in rural areas (FAO’s Voices of the Hungry). The prevalence of food insecurity in informal, low-income settlements trends much higher, reaching between 60% and 95% of the population. We also know that the prevalence of overweight and obesity are growing throughout the world, as changing consumption patterns and the widespread availability and low-cost of nutrient-poor foods high in sodium, sugar and saturated fats are becoming more prevalent in the diets of all socioeconomic classes.

Cities such as Mexico City and Belo Horizonte and a few in India one have put in place comprehensive, targeted programs to improve access and consumption of nutritious foods for lower-income consumers. A growing number of cities have implemented policy and regulatory measures that seek to reduce consumption of unhealthy foods. Taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages have been used in various island nations and territories (e.g., French Polynesia, Samoa), Mexico City and Philadelphia, to name a few, while Kerala state in India has levied a type of Pigovian tax (14.5%) on fat-rich food. The latter follows Denmark’s earlier experience with an across-the-board tax on all foods with a saturated fat content above 2.3 percent, which it later scrapped.

I know less of experiences to reduce the cost and promote consumption of healthy items like fresh fruits and vegetables. The State of Michigan (USA) and the Fair Food Network initiated the “Double Up Food Bucks” program that doubles the value of federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) benefits which are spent at participating farmers’ markets and grocery stores. It seeks to help people bring home more fruits and vegetables while also supporting local farmers.
A third important intervention area relates to actions to offer more nutritious and healthy food in public institutions (e.g., civil service, military, schools, hospitals) through regulations related to food quality (e.g., organic), local sourcing and in-house food preparation. Brazil’s and Italy’s experiences have been widely cited in this area.

Unfortunately, while there is a lot of anecdotal information available on these promising interventions, it seems that there is a general lack of rigorous, impact evaluations that have been conducted. I think that we need both quantitative data on programme costs and benefits as well as rich qualitative detail on the institutional evolution, stakeholder alliances, public and private financial instruments and capacity building challenges in these interventions. Thinking about replication and/or scaling up requires this richer level of detail on how to achieve good results. It would be interesting, for example, to have more details on Denmark’s efforts to impose a “fat” tax, including how consumption patterns changed (some consumers started shopping for these items in Germany) and what transpired behind the scenes in the budget negotiations to scrap the tax.

The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact ( is starting to look at cities’ experiences in designing and implementing food interventions.

I would welcome learning about interesting city or country experiences with rich impact evaluation detail of urban food policies and programmes.

James Tefft
Senior Economist and Liaison Officer
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Washington, DC

Back to top

» Post a reply