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close this bookCARE Food Manual (CARE , 1998, 355 p.)
close this folderChapter 1 - Programming Food Resources
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Open this folder and view contentsI. Hunger, Poverty, and Food Security*
Open this folder and view contentsII. Interventions



* The graphics for Chapter headings are adapted from FAM's Commodity Management Model. Food Forum, Issue 16. February 1993.


* This Chapter introduces food and logistics managers to basic information on hunger, food insecurity, and household coping strategies, and the role that food plays in programming.

Approximately 800 million people in the world today do not have access to sufficient food to meet the needs for a healthy and productive life, according to FAO estimates. They are food-insecure. They often go hungry and are not sure when they will have their next meal. Between 10 and 12 million preschool children died last year from hunger and diseases related to malnutrition. Although there is enough food in the world today to feed everyone if it were distributed evenly, 25 developing countries (including about half of the African nations) could not insure sufficient calories per capita even if all food available nationally were redistributed. Even in areas where there is food available in the aggregate, access to food by households and individuals is affected by poverty - the poor often lack adequate resources to secure consistent and reliable access to food. (1994 World Food Day Report. The President's Report to the US Congress, October 16, 1995)

Large-scale poverty persists in the world today because of a number of interrelated economic, political, social, and environmental changes taking place globally and within developing countries. Economic crises experienced in the last two decades have forced many developing countries to cut back social services which provide safety nets for their poor populations. Jobs have not been created as fast as the population has grown, and there are greater inequities in the distribution of income, resources, and opportunities. Political changes in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in instability and military insecurity, contributing to increased global poverty. Political and natural emergencies are on the rise, such that 59 million people have been directly affected. In addition, population growth rates have outstripped the environmental carrying capacity in most parts of the world, leading to tremendous environmental degradation. This is manifested in the destruction of tropical forests, the loss of biodiversity, and water and air pollution. Finally, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has reached crisis proportions. By the year 2000, 90% of the infections (estimated to be over 90 million cases) will occur in the developing world.

Poor people's basic livelihoods are being threatened the world over. In 1992, 1.3 billion people (more than 20% of the world's population) lived in absolute poverty and were not able to meet their basic needs for food, clean water, shelter, education, and basic health care. Nearly two-thirds of these people live in South Asia or Africa. By the year 2010 these numbers could reach 1.8 billion.

A. Food Security

To address the problem of food security, policymakers and project planners have continually looked for ways to get at the root causes of poverty and world hunger, and permit households to have "access. . .at all times to sufficient food and nutrition for a healthy and productive life" (US Agriculture Trade and Development Act, 1990).

Factors that Influence Household Food Security



Food consumption

· Number of people in household
· Age, sex, working status of individuals
· Health status of individuals
· Childbearing status (pregnant, lactating)

Food production

· Access to land
· Access to technology
· Access to investment capital
· Education of the farmer
· Government policies (tariffs, price controls, export taxes, input subsidies)

Price of food

· Quantity produced
· Costs of marketing
· Size of population
· Income of population
· Government policies (tariffs, price controls, export taxes, input subsidies)

Income and assets

· Education of members of households
· Capital position of household
· Land position
· Employment opportunities
· Transportation costs to and from work
· Health

B. Coping Strategies

Food security is not static. The key to sustained food security is a household's adaptability to change and resiliency to bounce back from shocks that affect household members' abilities to earn income to produce or purchase sufficient food to meet household needs.

Types of Coping Strategies




· Crop and livestock adjustments
· Diet changes
· Increased consumption of wild foods
· Grain loans from family
· Labor sales (migration)

Liquidation of assets

· Sale of animals
· Cash/cereal loans from merchants
· Productive asset sales
· Farm land pledging
· Farm land sale

General out-migration

· To urban centers (temporary and permanent)
· To other countries


Food security can be seen as a subset of a broader household livelihood security strategy which is designed to meet basic needs, including food, potable water, health, education, housing, participation in community activities, and leisure time.

As a programming strategy, food security should be considered an organizing principle or integrating framework that can be used across the continuum of emergency, relief and rehabilitation, and sustainable development. The framework emphasizes the development of strong sector-specific programs with synergistic linkages, such as health, agriculture and natural resources, income generation and small enterprise development, education, and reproductive health and family planning. The advantages of using a common framework are that intervention priorities can be established cross-sectorally, depending upon the major constraints facing households, and sector-specific programs can be targeted to the same regions to obtain a multiplier effect on the beneficiary population.


To enhance the livelihood security of vulnerable populations at different levels, a three-pronged approach can be used. This livelihood systems approach is based on the idea that relief, rehabilitation/mitigation and development interventions are a continuum of related activities, not separate and discrete initiatives. Household food, nutrition, and income security can be enhanced by one or a combination of the following three intervention strategies:

1. Livelihood Promotion

Purpose: To improve the resilience of households to meet food and other basic needs on a sustainable basis (development)

Explanation: Activities often aim to reduce the structural vulnerability of livelihood systems by focusing on:

· Improving production to stabilize yields through diversification into agro-ecologically appropriate crops, and through soil and water conservation measures

· Creating alternative income generating activities and credit programs

· Reinforcing coping strategies that are economically and environmentally sustainable (e.g., seasonal off-farm employment)

· Improving on-farm storage capacity to increase the availability of buffer stocks

· Improving common property management through community participation

· Improving health and sanitation conditions

· Increasing education in the areas of reproductive health and family planning.

2. Livelihood Protection

Purpose: To protect households from losing their productive assets or to assist in getting them back (rehabilitation/mitigation)

Explanation: Interventions entail timely food and income transfers that can reduce long-term vulnerabilities resulting from the forced selling of productive assets to meet immediate food and other needs. The negative impacts of livelihood insecurity can be reduced by:

· Timely detection of where livelihood and food insecurity are likely to occur

· Establishing contingency plans that can be implemented in a timely fashion before a significant erosion of household assets occurs and other erosive coping strategies are activated.

Examples of interventions include:

· Infrastructure improvements and repair
· Soil and water conservation
· Child survival and health interventions
· Distribution of seeds and tools
· Repair of water sites.

3. Livelihood Provisioning

Purpose: To provide food and meet other essential needs for households to maintain nutritional levels and save lives (relief)

Explanation: Interventions usually entail food and health care for people during an emergency (short term) or people who are chronically vulnerable (long term). Targeted food and health activities are critical and, whenever possible, food should be combined with promotion and/or protection interventions, to phase out any food transfers. In relief situations where people have been displaced from their homes (refugees and internally displaced populations who live in camps) interventions may include nutrition, health, HIV/AIDS, and family planning education programs. For chronically vulnerable populations, a community-based mother-child program (MCH) provides food for the most vulnerable families.

1. When to Use Food Resources

In some natural disasters such as an earthquake or flooding, where food production and/or stocks may have been disrupted, resources may be sufficient for a short period. For areas with minimal or no productive capacity, few alternative income generating activities, a depleted natural resource base or high levels of malnutrition, longer-term use of food may be required.

Long-term use of food can be targeted for vulnerable, chronically food-insecure groups, such as female-headed households or children. All long-term projects should incorporate agriculture, health, agro-forestry or income-generating interventions into their programming strategies.

Development of household livelihood security (food security) interventions may or may not require the use of imported food resources.

Consider the following scenarios:

· A minor disruption occurs in food stocks, crops, or marketing systems. If communities and households are able to draw on their savings, food reserves or other sources of assistance or income, no food assistance is needed.

· Due to a natural disaster or civil disturbance, food stocks are lost, normal food supply/marketing systems are disrupted, and/or food crops are damaged. Short-term food assistance is needed. The duration may be as brief as a few days or as long as until the next harvest.

· The opportunity to return to food self-reliance is deferred over a long period. This includes successive crop failures and situations involving refugees or displaced persons. The initial health/nutritional status of the population, their possibilities to grow food and/or engage in other income-generating activities, and the policies of the government will determine the length of the transition from relief to self-sufficiency. Long-term food assistance may be required.

Food resources should only be allocated after a thorough needs analysis of a target population and area. The analysis should include a close examination of food production, supply, and marketing systems in the area and outside. Food aid may disrupt local markets in the distribution area and also negatively influence markets in surrounding regions. Analysis should also project what effect there could be when the project is terminated.

2. CARE's Food Programming Principles

Food aid should be programmed under specific conditions and with certain precautions; to do otherwise would risk a costly and ineffective intervention that creates dependency and acts as a disincentive to local food production. Food programs should be based on CARE food programming principles (adapted from CARE's Use of Food Aid: Policy and Guidelines, 1985):

· Priority to low-income food-deficient countries

· Targeted to benefit disadvantaged segments of the populations of the recipient countries

· Based on development criteria. Use of food aid must be a logical and integral part of the development efforts of the recipient countries and the region. Food aid should be consistent with overall strategies for the production and consumption of food in those countries.

· Developed, implemented, and evaluated with community participation and aimed toward community self-reliance. Selecting appropriate administrative and operational counterparts is critical and presents an opportunity to involve national and local private institutions and organizations reaching the greatest majority of the population.

· Include systems for both process and impact evaluation.

· Advocate for important food aid issues.

· Meet standards of accountability for food aid programming, including a clear statement of the project's framework and expectations, and assessment of potential impact on domestic agricultural production and consumption.

3. Objectives for the Use of Food Resources

If food is determined to be an appropriate resource, final and intermediate goals and quantifiable indicators should be identified. The following examples show how food resources can be used (adapted from CARE Haiti Food Aid Procedures Manual, July 1994):

Uses of Food Resources



Degree of Need



Save lives


Emergency feeding involves providing a large group of people with almost complete daily rations. The size and mix of the ration will depend upon expected duration of the critical hunger period. Emergency program design should include the means for determining when the emergency is over.


Restore health


Rehabilitative feeding is directed to those who have suffered acute malnutrition to the point of severe bodily wasting. They require intensive feeding with special foods.


Maintain adequate nutrition, income transfer


Maintenance feeding is directed towards a group of people who for some reason (age, sex, social class, lack of capital) consume less than an adequate diet for achieving and maintaining normal health. The gap may be constant throughout a period of time (e.g., weaning) or recurrent (e.g., agricultural workers during a slow season). This type of chronic hunger will recur with predictable effect on a certain group of people, and can move into an emergency or rehabilitative situation if it persists beyond individuals' ability to cope.


Enhance human potential; address causes of hunger/ poverty


Developmental programs use food to achieve an objective not directly related to lessening immediate hunger. The objective may be to avoid future hunger by addressing its causes, or to address related but different problems, such as water, environment, population or capital formation. Food may be monetized and the proceeds from sale used for a wider range of development activities.

4. Constraints on Using Food Resources

In finalizing decisions about the use of food resources, consider the following issues:

· Effects on dietary patterns, intra-household distributions of food and cultural preferences
· Effects on distribution of income
· Effects on local production and markets
· Effects on local logistics, storage, and transportation
· Effects on community initiative.


Once program managers decide that food resources will be used in project activities, they must determine who will receive the food and how often, and what food will be used and how much (ration size and composition).

1. Targeting Beneficiaries

A targeting strategy should identify a basic unit, such as vulnerable individuals, households, communities or regions. Then criteria should be established to determine when targeted populations are qualified and no longer qualified to receive food. The following are important indicators of nutritional vulnerability:

· The relationship of the target group to seasonal and climatic factors affecting production (agricultural production cycles, weather patterns as reflected in both yields and price levels).

· Non-agricultural livelihood factors such as access to charcoal production, fishing, livestock, and commercial activities

· Access to production assets and markets

· Gender of the head of the household

· Size and number of children in the household.

The groups listed below are known to have distinct food needs:

· Refugees who have fled across national frontiers for fear of persecution or for survival

· Displaced persons who have left their homes and means of livelihood and moved within the territory of their own country

· Families who live in areas where refugees or internally displaced persons have settled in camps

· Returnees who were refugees/displaced and need temporary help to re-establish themselves in their original homes

· Rural landless, such as farm laborers and artisans unable to find employment

· Farmers with small holdings who normally meet most of their own subsistence needs and possibly market small quantities of produce

· Poor urban populations who depend on casual labor and petty trading for their livelihoods

· Vulnerable groups within each of the distinct population groups above who are at highest risk of malnutrition, such as infants, young children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, unaccompanied children, widows, elderly people without family support, and disabled people.

2. Ration Size and Composition

To determine the appropriate ration size and composition, consider the following factors:

· Age, gender, and activity level of the vulnerable population
· Number of participants
· Other local foods consumed, by number of calories/person/day
· Storage, fuel, and cooking facilities
· Culturally acceptable foods
· Caloric, protein, and micronutrient needs of targeted populations
· Local market value of the food and its value as an income transfer.

Food selected for distribution is also determined by project objectives. If food is distributed to increase household income, such as food-for-work, a high value food like oil may be more appropriate than a blended food not found indigenously, such as bulgur and soy blends. Conversely, if the project targets vulnerable individuals, soy blends may be more appropriate because of their high nutrient content, texture, and low resale value. The Commodity Reference Guide, Office of Food for Peace and Voluntary Assistance, USAID, January, 1988 provides useful information on determining ration sizes for PL 480 Title II food.

The following example from CARE Haiti's Procedures Manual shows how to determine the caloric value of food used in a project activity and how to compare it with daily recommended allowances. Total caloric value per day is calculated by dividing the caloric value per 100 grams by one hundred (100) for each food and multiplying that by grams/day. For example, based on grams/day per beneficiary, the total caloric value per day for bulgur in the following table is 354 ¸ 100 = 3.54 x 125 gr/day = 442.5 calories per day.

Preschool/School Feeding Rations
(Children between the ages of 0-12 years old)



No of feeding


Caloric value
per 100 grams

Total caloric
value per day



























The ration size, frequency of feeding, duration of program, and number of children to be fed provide the basis for determining overall food resource needs for a project. For example:

Children to be fed = 5,000
Duration of program = 9 months
Frequency of feeding = 20 days per month
Ration size (bulgur) = 125 grams/day x 20 days = 2500 grams (2.5 Kg) per month
Total Project Needs = 2.5 Kg x 5000 children x 9 months = 112,500 Kg (112.5 MT)

This basic calculation can be used to determine total food resources needed for any project. Programs should build in a contingency reserve for potential wastage or loss.

Percentage of Daily Caloric Allowance of CARE Haiti Ration
Children in School Feeding Programs


Recommended Daily Allowance (in calories)

Percentage of total daily recommended allowance

0-6 months



6-12 months



1-3 years



4-6 years



7-9 years



10-15 years



The table above highlights the importance of understanding the needs of the population receiving the food. Data should be collected in the planning stages of the project that determine, at a minimum:

· Appropriateness of the ration for the population by age, gender, level of activity
· Appropriateness of the food to be distributed, including micronutrient needs of vulnerable groups
· Whether the ration will be a supplement or a full ration.

3. Distribution Site

Criteria should be determined for the most appropriate mechanisms for food distribution. Factors to consider include:

· Project objectives and planned complementary interventions

· Physical location and accessibility of the sites, e.g., urban or rural communities. In concentrated urban settings, daily wet feedings through distributions may be an appropriate means of insuring that vulnerable groups receive a full ration. However, in dispersed rural populations, periodic dry rations may be the more effective and efficient distribution mode.

· Distance vulnerable groups must travel and the calories they must expend to reach feeding, distribution or work sites for food for work activities

· Nutritional status of the target population

· Time constraints of the targeted group. For example, a mother may have to make trade-offs between time spent on pursuing income-generating activities and receiving food entitlements.

· Political feasibility of distributions in the target area

· Cultural acceptability of distributions in the target area.

a. Direct vs. Indirect Distributions

Direct distribution refers to food given directly to family heads or individuals. Overall, direct distribution is more resource-intensive than indirect distribution.

Indirect distribution refers to food given to representatives of beneficiaries, such as community leaders, who divide up the food for distribution to families or individuals. Indirect distribution overall may be less resource intensive; however, CARE has little control over how food is distributed by the community representatives. If indirect distribution is used, CARE and counterparts must develop monitoring systems to insure that food is reaches beneficiaries with minimal diversion.

b. Wet and Dry Feeding

Wet feeding involves the on-site preparation of a mixture of foods. It generally takes place daily and includes complementary activities such as training or immunizations. On-site wet feeding insures that intended recipients consume the specified ration. In addition, wet feeding acts as an incentive for attendance at training interventions.

Dry feeding involves distributing food in bulk to family needs. It is administratively much more convenient than wet feeding. Fewer people and resources are involved, there are fewer distribution points, and distributions may occur less often. However, it is more difficult to determine how often and how much of the ration has been consumed by targeted beneficiaries.