South Africa is experiencing unprecedented levels of obesity and stunting with severe public health consequences. These problems are related to the intersection of poverty and food system transitions leading to changes in the types of food available and accessible to people in the local food environment, especially the increasing availability and affordability of ultra-processed foods. These issues require attention and concerted action by policy-makers, civil society and academics.
In December 2019, the Food Lab hosted a dialogue in Khayelitsha together with the University of Western Cape School of Public Health “Researching Obesogenic Food Environments” (ROFE) team. The dialogue was convened by principal investigator Prof. David Sanders and supported by funding from the International Development Research Center, Canada, and the DST-NRF Centre for Excellence for Food Security.
The dialogue brought together a broad range of participants from government, academia and civil society, including a delegation of research partners from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana.
The dialogue followed the Learning Journey approach involving research briefings, experiential immersion and sensing of real-world elements of local food systems (including visits to the SPAR Distribution Centre, the Epping Fresh Produce Market, and the Nonqubela Station Retail Precinct in Khayelitsha), followed by group dialogues to share and make sense of what was experienced.
The deliberations encouraged participants to explore the implications of what they had experienced, and to forge new links with other stakeholders. While this dialogue was aimed primarily at stakeholders at the local and provincial scale, a second workshop later in 2019 will bring together additional stakeholders from the national scale.