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City receives £499,000 award to investigate the double burden of malnutrition in South Africa

The Centre for Food Policy awarded funding by the UKRI GCRF Collective Programme, a wider investment of £147 Million designed to impact global health, education, sustainable cities, food systems, conflict and resilience.

by Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer)

Environmental disasters, education for children living through conflict and malnutrition are just some of the global challenges being tackled by 141 new international development research projects being announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) today.

The awards, which form UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Collective Programme bring together a wide range of researchers and experts from across the UK and developing countries to generate innovative solutions to intractable development issues and contribute to enabling healthier and safer lives, sustainable development and prosperity for all.

The Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London, has been granted a £499,000 award from the programme to investigate the double burden of malnutrition in urban South Africa.

Most people in South Africa live in cities, where life is difficult for poor people. These people have long travel times to work and live in tiny houses. This makes it really difficult for them to store and prepare nutritious foods at home. As a result, they often rely on food that they can eat straight away or does not spoil, like fatty fried food and sugary snacks and drinks. Furthermore, because they have so little money and time, they often feed babies watery, starchy foods without enough nutrients.

The City researchers working on the awarded project will engage with communities, and collaborators at the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University, to investigate a whole system of actions that will actually work for people who live in cities. This means ensuring that existing actions to help them are better aligned with and supported by that food system, as well as designing new actions within the system that recognise the challenges in peoples' lives.

Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London said:

We are delighted to receive this award to have the opportunity to collaborate with world-class researchers and policymakers in the Western Cape, South Africa, to answer some fundamental questions about how to address the double burden of malnutrition. The results, drawn from close engagement with communities at risk of obesity and undernutrition, will be applicable around the world.

The wider UKRI GCRF Collective Programme, is an investment of £147 Million across 18 calls designed to enhance the overall impact across UKRI’s six strategic GCRF Challenge portfolios in global health, education, sustainable cities, food systems, conflict and resilience. Research across these is contributing to realising the ambitions of the UK Government’s aid strategy and progressing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Professor Andrew Thompson, UKRI’s International Champion, said:

“UKRI is proud to announce this initiative celebrating the spirit of international collaboration in research and innovation. The pandemic has irrefutably demonstrated that we are part of a global community and must work together to tackle global crises.

“This exciting Programme brings together diverse expertise from across the globe, ensuring that the voices of those most impacted are empowered to drive sustainable solutions for those most in need.

“Working in partnership with developing nations, the UK’s research and innovation system has a crucial role to play in finding innovative solutions to interlinked issues such as issues such as environmental disasters, extreme poverty and food security. These international development research projects announced today are essential to finding these solutions.”

Research projects across the Collective Programme include:

  • Improving preparedness and planning for the mountain hazard and risk chain in Nepal including earthquakes and monsoon rainfall as well as complex social, political and economic transformations, all within a hazardous yet densely populated landscape.

  • Creating sustainable energy systems across Latin America by generating inclusive knowledge and governance to address energy vulnerability and energy systems resilience.
  • Reducing urban poverty in South Asia by working with community activists and policy makers to develop context-sensitive solutions to the problems poor communities encounter in accessing key infrastructural services.

  • Addressing poor nutrition and designing a structure that supports children and their mothers eating foods that support their health and development in South Africa.

  • Exploring all aspects of plastic use, from the composition of plastics that are imported across Africa to the slum communities who make a livelihood from selling and cleaning discarded plastics to enable an integrated circular economy that uses and reuses waste products to deliver economic benefits.

  • Bringing together two existing projects, The REfugees in Africa ClusTer (REACT) project will inform health care provision for refugees across East Africa. Working with ministries of health and academic institutions across nine African countries, this GCRF Cluster project will combine the expertise of two existing GCRF projects to feed into policy decisions and ultimately improve health care provision for refugees across East Africa.

Edward Kataika, Director of Health Programmes, East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community, Tanzania, explains:

“GCRF has helped to bring research closer to policymakers' needs, around our common aim of improving population health. The GCRF Clusters, such as REACT, help to further this by finding synergies across existing projects and generating knowledge in new and important areas"

This new programme is part of the GCRF, a £1.5 billion fund, announced by the UK Government in 2015, designed to stimulate research on the challenges faced by developing countries. GCRF forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment.

Find out more

Visit the Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London

For further detail on the new Centre for Food Policy award, visit the UKRI website: Urban food systems for healthy diets in South Africa: Addressing the double burden of malnutrition through a coherent systems approach

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