The global food system is coming under increasing strain in the face of urban population growth. The recent spike in global food prices (2007–08) provoked consumer protests, and raised questions about food sovereignty and how and where food will be produced. Concurrently, for the first time in history the majority of the global population is urban, with the bulk of urban growth occurring in smaller-tiered cities and urban peripheries, or ‘peri-urban’ areas of the developing world. This paper discusses the new emerging spaces that incorporate a mosaic of urban and rural worlds, and reviews the implications of these spaces for livelihoods and food security. We propose a modified livelihoods framework to evaluate the contexts in which food production persists within broader processes of landscape and livelihood transformation in peri-urban locations. Where and how food production persists are central questions for the future of food security in an urbanising world. Our proposed framework provides directions for future research and highlights the role of policy and planning in reconciling food production with urban growth.