Rapidly rising food prices and the experience of food insecurity in urban Ethiopia: Impacts on health and well-being
The rise in food prices since 2007 is widely recognized as signaling a crisis of food insecurity among the world's poor. Scholars sought to chart the impacts of the crisis on food insecurity by conducting simulation studies, assessing anthropometric outcomes, and evaluating shifts in experience-based measures of food security. Few studies, however, have investigated the broader impacts on those most vulnerable and how rapid rises in food prices play out in the everyday lives of those most impacted. We used qualitative methods to investigate the impact of the rise in food prices on the urban poor in Ethiopia. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted in August 2011, in the provincial town of Jimma. Themes identified in these interviews included coping strategies, consumption priorities, and impacts on institutional networks of sharing. Our results suggest that several important cultural practices, including funerals and coffee ceremonies, were undermined by the rise in prices, and that respondents linked food prices to increasing food insecurity, which they in turn linked to high levels of stress, poor mental health, and reduced physical health. Our results are consistent with several other studies that suggest that food insecurity has a range of non-nutritional consequences, and that these are due in part to the highly social nature of food. Recognizing the effects of food insecurity on dimensions of everyday life such as interaction with neighbors, and feelings of shame, draws attention to the potential for food price increases to have erosive effects on communal social capital, and to increase the vulnerability of affected peoples to future shocks.
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Volume (Year): 75 (2012)
Issue (Month): 12 ()
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