Informal food retail in urban areas

Informal food retail is a central informal sector activity with a particular defining role in urban food systems, and is critical to the food and nutrition security of urban society. Many families and individuals residing in cities, especially those on low incomes, depend on informal food retail as a source of nutritious food such as fresh fruits and vegetables. It also offers a livelihood and source of income for many workers.

The sector is not without its challenges. Governments often fail to provide adequate structures and regulation, particularly regarding food safety, which makes it difficult for informal food retailers to guarantee a stable supply of nutritious and safe foods. The COVID-19 pandemic has both hampered the functioning of informal food retailers in urban settings, and emphasised just how reliant people are on it. This factsheet explores the critical role informal food retail plays in urban areas in LMICs, highlighting key characteristics of the sector as well as key challenges it faces.