Nutritional, hygienic and socio-economic dimensions of street foods in urban areas: the case of Nairobi

A.M. Mwangi

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


<font size="3"><p>Exceptionally high rates of urbanisation in developing countries have been coupled with lack of employment and increasing urban poverty and undernutrition. Urban populations are thus utilising a variety of initiatives to enable them to survive. Street food vending is one such initiative. It is believed to have a double function in that it addresses the two increasing problems of urban poverty and undernutrition in developing countries. In Kenya, little information is available about street food vending. The sector is not officially permitted and vendors are often harassed. This study describes the scope of street food vending and buying in Nairobi and quality of street foods in terms of food group variety and energy and nutrient provision. It also assesses basic food hygiene knowledge and practice of vendors as well as the extent to which street foods are a source of livelihood for vending households.</p><p>We found that street food vending in Nairobi is wide spread especially among the urban poor. Its growth reflects trends in economic and urban population growth. Although the sector offers products from all food groups, most vendors are one-food group sellers with cereals as the prominent group. In addition, major meal servings especially in working areas are able to provide more than adequate protein and iron, but their ability to provide adequate energy is limited. Meals are also poor in Vitamin A. However, where there is an income, particularly female vendors are able to sell foods of better nutritional quality than their male counterparts. Knowledge of general aspects of basic hygiene is well established while knowledge of specific issues is less spread among vendors. Nevertheless, vendors do not translate basic hygiene knowledge into safe food practices. Majority of vendors earns above the official minimum wage for Nairobi. For half of the vending households, street food vending is the main income provider. Such households are associated with the lowest socio-economic index and vendors as household heads. The vast majority of vending households feeds from the street food pot on a daily basis and obtains substantial amounts of the daily energy requirement.</p><p>Therefore, street food vending (and consumption) is growing with increasing urban population. The foods, however, need improvement in terms of variety and nutrient harmonisation. Vendors are not completely ignorant of basic food hygiene practices but consumers probably do not demand safe food. Poverty and insecurity may also contribute to lack of investment of vendors into safe practices while absence of sanitation amenities at the vending sites makes it impossible to practice. Vending of street foods is a livelihood strategy for most vending households, hence banning it would strip them of a means of survival. What is needed is to officially recognise the sector, reconstruct and organise it with provision of sanitation amenities and put in place vendor training and consumer sensitisation programmes to ensure food safety and nutritional quality.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • van Staveren, W.A., Promotor, External person
  • den Hartog, A.P., Promotor, External person
  • Foeken, D.W.J., Promotor, External person
Award date5 Mar 2002
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789058085825
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • nutrition
  • socioeconomics
  • food hygiene
  • food handling
  • food safety
  • foods
  • food consumption
  • urban areas
  • towns
  • kenya


Dive into the research topics of 'Nutritional, hygienic and socio-economic dimensions of street foods in urban areas: the case of Nairobi'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this