In-house seminar on ‘Assessing Food Environments, Population, Diets and COVID-19 Impacts: Evidence from Sri Lanka’s Urban Underserved Settlements’ by Ashani Abayasekara

30 November 2021

‘Assessing Food Environments, Population, Diets, and COVID-19 Impacts: Evidence from Sri Lanka’s Urban Underserved Settlements’ was the subject of IPS’ in-house seminar this month presented by Research Economist Ashani Abayasekara, which is also an ongoing IPS research study. In her presentation, Ashani pointed to increasing policy attention on the role of retail food environments (RFEs) in shaping population diets, and flagged the importance of developing tools to assess RFEs to understand their impacts on household dietary patterns.

Ashani presented ongoing work on a tool being developed to assess RFEs across the dimensions of food availability, prices, vendor and product properties, and marketing and regulation, in selected urban underserved settlements (USSs) in Colombo.  She also highlighted findings from a recent survey conducted among households in these locations which showed that COVID-19 has led to a notable decline in many food items typically consumed in these households due to multiple factors. Some of these factors are: food accessibility and affordability, changes in time available for preparation, income instability, and loss of access to social protection programmes.

Ashani concluded that although the research is ongoing, it is clear that food accessibility and affordability are factors influencing household diets, COVID-19 has had several implications on diets, and regulating RFEs remains an unaddressed area, partly due to lack of a comprehensive evidence base to inform policy decisions. The planned RFE assessment is expected to contribute towards filling this research gap.

Download Presentation HERE.