As food prices stabilise, is there a rising dependence on processed and unsafe foods?

Food & livelihoods, Food security

The Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility research project has worked with 23 communities for three or more years examining how they are coping with changes in food prices and the impact on their well-being. This year a key theme has been changing food habits and people’s views on processed and unsafe foods. Here, Richard King points to some of the first impressions of this year’s work.

Partners of Oxfam and IDS have just concluded the third round of research for the Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility research project that examines how people are living in the context of historically high and volatile food prices. We’ve been visiting the same communities for three years now, and in some cases since 2009. It will be particularly interesting to hear what people have to say this year, and to understand the situation in the 23 communities
where are working, given that globally food prices have been lower and a lot more stable this year than in recent years, and good harvests have help to build up bumper stocks providing a much needed buffer against future production shocks. That picture may or not be reflected in communities, where many other factors also have a bearing on market prices.

Each year in addition asking questions about how people are coping, how their well-being is affected, and what forms of social protection are available to them, we have a particular theme we explore in greater detail. In the first year this was about future farmers and youth aspirations; in the second year we sought to better understand local
accountability for ensuring people’s right to food. This year we’ve been asking about changing food habits and the quality and safety of available foods.

Although it’s too early to have a full picture of this year’s findings, Alexandra Kelbert, a researcher from IDS has written about some of her first hand impressions when working with the research teams in Bolivia and Burkina Faso. In her first blog post she discusses Bolivians’ challenges to afford quinoa – a traditional staple – in light of growing global demand, and about how the theme of fast foods and fake foods really seemed to resonate with Bolivian research
participants. In her second blog Alex reflects on differing perceptions among men and women in Burkina Faso about the difficulties of feeding their families with food they find acceptable. And about how some people are adding petrol to their cooking sauces. To read Alex’s reflections in full please see her first and second posts. A full account of this third round of research will be published in spring 2015.

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Author: Richard King
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.