| 21.09.2021

Doctoral thesis: Tuck shops and food carts can improve food access for the urban poor

Food security is defined as having sufficient access to food in order to maintain a healthy life. The mainstream approach to ensuring sufficient food and nutrition security is focused on production and consumption. New research shows that food security research and action need to emphasise distribution and retail in addition to agricultural production.

Production and consumption of food are quantifiable measures, using for example tonnes produced and calories consumed. However, they disregard the complex food system that takes place between production and consumption, which includes the retail food supply chain.

 As the urban population continues to increase, the significance of retail grows. In her doctoral thesis Urban food security at the intersection of retail supply chain management and development studies, Virva Tuomala explores the relationship between urban development and grocery retail. The unique needs and dynamics of urban poor neighbourhoods, such as inconsistent financial situations or challenges in accessing healthy food, are not well understood among formal supply chains and remain under
researched in academia.   

The field work for the thesis was conducted in South Africa and Thailand, where the informal food sector plays a substantial role in food access and security.

“Whether it be a neighbourhood tuck shop or a mobile food cart, these informal outlets are more accessible for many urban poor residents both financially and spatially, than formal supermarkets” Tuomala says.

Supermarkets and convenience stores are making efforts to expand into poor urban neighbourhoods, as they represent a lucrative new market for supermarkets. However, factors such as spatial access difficulties, financial constraints, and trust issues can hinder their success in entering the market. As well, the selection of goods at the outlets marketed to low-income demographics can be rather limited, especially in terms of fresh produce.  

“Informal outlets are located within the neighbourhoods rather than on the outskirts, and residents form social relationships with vendors. Vendors can grant regular customers with credit if they are struggling financially or take dietary needs into consideration” Tuomala adds.

You can read the whole thesis via this link.

The public defence takes place on 24 September 2021 at 12 noon.
The doctoral defence will be held by video conference. You can access the video conference via Teams via this link.

Opponent: Professor Martin Hingley, University of Lincoln
Custos: Professor David Grant, Hanken School of Economics

More information:
Virva Tuomala
virva.tuomala@hanken.fi