Food access, stability and utilisation are key dimensions of food security at an urban scale. When the majority resided in rural areas, and lived predominantly agrarian lifestyles, it made sense for the state to govern food security through national agricultural ministries, focusing predominantly on the availability dimension of food security. With the transition to a majority urban world, coupled with the food security challenges currently experienced in urban areas, specifically in Africa, these historical policy and governance structures are increasingly inadequate in responding to essential food and nutrition needs. Problematically, urban areas, and specifically urban managers, cite unfunded mandates, and absent authority, as the reasons for not engaging food and nutrition governance responses. This paper argues that this is a false position. Drawing on recent data from household food security and poverty surveys, the paper calls for new and expanded planning and design approaches at the urban scale. The paper argues that spatial planning and urban design principles and actions provide an immediate and effective means through which to engage urban food system questions. Importantly these actions are essential to the transition from the current piecemeal project responses to urban food system inadequacies.Food sensitive planning and urban design is offered as a specific approach that could assist in programming food system–related challenges at the urban scale, responding to conceptual, analytical, organisational and design related dimensions of planning, and in so doing offering a longer term, systematic response to urban food insecurity.