Knowledge for a sustainable world

The role of food environments in enabling healthy, sustainable diets for rural women and young children: insights from Peru and Uganda

Sustainable food systems and, in turn food environments, for healthy diets are crucial for both human and planetary health. This is especially important for women and children in developing countries that are at high risk of malnutrition due to food insecurity.

This doctoral project will analyse factors underlying the nutritional impact of food environments in Peru and Uganda. The project will assess how local diets (measured as maternal and child dietary intake and anthropometry) are currently influenced by a variety of factors including food environments, agricultural practices, livelihood capitals, cultural norms and gender roles. It will also identify ‘double duty’ entry points (i.e. with potential to address both undernutrition and overnutrition) within food environments, that may be leveraged by communities, government and development partners to enable healthy, sustainable diets.

Specifically, this project will:

  1. Develop a conceptual model of drivers of food choice for women and young children in selected communities in Peru and Uganda.
  2. Evaluate the relative importance of these drivers in influencing dietary nutritional adequacy and food consumption patterns.
  3. Identify 'double-duty' entry points within food environments that may be leveraged to enable more nutritious and sustainable diets.

Findings will inform development of equitable food systems and food environments that are sustainable and nutritious for women and children in Peru and Uganda.

Primary Supervisor: Julia de Bruyn
Secondary Supervisor(s): Kate Wellard, Assoc Prof Elaine Ferguson (External)

Originally from a sheep station in outback Australia, Lydia O’Meara (BSc Hons, BMedSc) is a nutritionist interested in leveraging food systems for nutrition. She joined the Natural Resources Institute in 2020, as a PhD candidate under a Food and Nutrition Security Initiative scholarship.

Lydia has previously worked with multi- disciplinary teams in the Pacific Islands, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and CGIAR.

Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, Lydia completed her BSc (Hons) with CQUniversity Australia working with eight indigenous iTaukei villages in Fiji to examine factors influencing the ability of vegetable farming households to eat a healthy diet (funded by ACIAR and the Crawford Fund). She then lived in Malaysia working with the CGIAR WorldFish Centre to:

  • Contribute to the FAO “Illuminating Hidden Harvests” study by synthesising the global evidence for the role of small-scale fisheries in supporting food security.
  • Examine the role of inland fisheries in the diets of children in Malawi, Zambia and Cambodia using nationally representative datasets and innovative spatial analysis.
  • Provide technical assistance to a USAID team by developing decision-making protocols to guide effective incorporation of fish into the national feeding program for Odisha, India.

In her spare time, Lydia enjoys traveling and sampling local cuisines.

Interest areas:

  • Food systems for healthy diets
  • Food environments
  • Food security
  • Agriculture-nutrition nexus
  • Sustainable diets
  • Public health
  • O’Meara, L., Williams, S.L., Hickes, D., Brown, P. (2019) Predictors of dietary diversity of indigenous food-producing households in rural Fiji. Nutrients, 11 (7). pp.1629 (
  • O’Meara, L., Williams, S.L., Ames, K., Lawson, C., Saluja, S., Vandelanotte, C. (2019) Low health literacy is associated with risk of type-2- diabetes in a non-clinical Australian population. The Diabetes Educator, 45 (4). pp. 431-441 ( 8)


  • 2020 PhD Scholarship, Food and Nutrition Security Initiative, Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK, “The role of food environments in enabling healthy, sustainable diets for rural women and young children: insights from Peru and Uganda
  • 2018 Honours Research Scholarship, The Crawford Fund, Australia, “Food security in Pacific Island farming communities” (Crawford Fund ID: QLD-777-2017)
  • 2017 Summer Research Program, College of the Atlantic/Ashoka, Japan, “Rural development on Osakikamijima, a remote agricultural island in the Seto Inland Sea, Japan
  • 2016 Summer Research Scholarship, CQUniversity, Australia, “Improving health literacy of Australian adults; what do we need to do?
  • 2015 Research Fellowship, Global Voices Int. Australia/OECD France, “Exploring nutritious food as a key tool in closing the gap in Indigenous health inequality

Project awards:

  • 2019 Opal Award - Excellence in Engaged Service Learning, CQUniversity, Australia, “Establishment of an innovative online CQUniversity Nutrition Network for students and alumni
  • 2018 Opal Award – Honours Research Project for Excellence in Innovation and Community Engagement, CQUniversity, Australia, “Factors influencing food security and dietary diversity of indigenous food-producing households in rural Fiji
  • 2015 Recognition Award for Excellent Project Service Delivery, Queensland Health, Cairns Hospital, Australia, “Emergency Medicine Education and Training for clinical staff in geographically remote healthcare facilities
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