Bringing Together Urban Systems and Food Systems Theory and Research is Overdue: Understanding the Relationships Between Food and Nutrition Infrastructures Along a Continuum of Contested and Hybrid Access

Living Off-Grid Food and Infrastructure Collaboration (LOGIC), Jane Battersby, Mercy Brown-Luthango, Issahaka Fuseini, Herry Gulabani, Gareth Haysom, Ben Jackson, Vrashali Khandelwal, Hayley MacGregor, Sudeshna Mitra, Nicholas Nisbett, Iromi Perera, Dolf te Lintelo, Jodie Thorpe, Percy Toriro | 2023 


Urban dwellers’ food and nutritional wellbeing are both dependent on infrastructure and can be indicative of wider wellbeing in urban contexts and societal health. This paper focuses on the multiple relationships that exist between food and infrastructure to provide a thorough theoretical and empirical grounding to urgent work on urban food security and nutrition in the context of rapid urban and nutrition transitions in the South. We argue that urban systems and food systems thinking have not been well aligned, but that such alignment is not only timely and overdue but also fruitful for both thematic areas of research and policy. We draw in particular on work within wider urban political economy and political ecology that can be classified as part of the ‘infrastructural turn’ that is influential with urban studies but little acknowledged within food studies. Drawing on these literatures helps us to better understand the interrelationships between people, things and ideas that make up both infrastructure and food systems. Policy, planning and research relating to both food and urban systems cannot afford to ignore such interlinkages, though much policy still operates on the neat assumptions of progressive connectivity to ‘the grid’ and formal food retail. Instead we argue how in many urban governance systems, a variety of hybrid mechanisms—on and off the grid, public and private formal and informal—better represent how urban residents, particularly the most marginalised, meet their everyday food and infrastructural needs along a continuum of gridded and off-grid access.