Food and nutrition


In line with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), the right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in a community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate, accessible and available food or means for its procurement (General Comment No. 12). For the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, the right to food is the right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensure a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear. More specifically, food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (FAO, 2001).

Social protection is one of the policy areas that can contribute to ensuring food security. By ensuring at least a basic level of income security and access to health, social protection systems contribute to different dimensions of food security and nutrition. Especially for highly vulnerable groups of the population, social protection mechanisms contribute to meeting nutritional needs, facilitating access to adequate food, accelerating hunger reduction and increasing levels of human capital, which in turn further improves levels of nutrition, and encourage self-sufficient and independent subsistence for those who are able to work.

Social protection systems can have an impact on the right to adequate food because they address constraints that prevent people from accessing food or procuring it by a variety of means, including a lack of income or income-generating capacity, as well as lack of education, health, productive resources, or opportunities for employment. There are also socially rooted norms and realities such as discrimination and social exclusion that add to the intensity of deprivation of the poor and hungry which requires attention in this context. The Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security foresaw the value of social protection as part of the solution to food insecurity in humanitarian as well as long term development contexts.

A rights-based approach to social protection, ensuring that the considerations about the right to food are incorporated in social protection policies, systems and programmes, especially in contexts where hunger, inadequate nutrition and a lack of food security are pervasive.



Photo credit: “Understanding nutrition in Rwanda” by CIAT (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).



Arab Horizon 2030: Prospects for Enhancing Food Security in the Arab Region

Food security is universally recognized as paramount to human well-being. But what exactly does it mean, and what is required to achieve food security? A comprehensive definition put forward by the World Food Summit in 1996 holds that “food security [is] a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and […]

Building a Favourable Environment for Institutional Food Procurement Programmes: contributions from Mozambique

The efficiency of institutional food procurement programmes (IFPPs) depends on a series of interconnected conditions to reach their stated goal of linking smallholders with institutional markets and demand (e.g. school meals). These programmes rely on governmental will and the availability of public demand. Furthermore, they require institutional changes and the close coordination of policies and […]

Implementation of Decentralized Food Procurement Programmes and the Impact of the Policy, Institutional and Legal Enabling Environment: the case of PRONAE and PAA Africa in Mozambique

The development and implementation of an efficient institutional food procurement programme (IFPP —which aims to link smallholder producers to institutional markets and promote development of food supply systems—is not a simple or straightforward task. It requires a series of conditions that must be coordinated and matched together. These conditions depend on—but go far beyond—governmental will […]

Adapting Fomento to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Although one of the hallmarks of an effective development intervention is its successful implementation across a variety of contexts, programme replication is often overlooked. In a recent project, the International Food Policy Research Institute adapted a well-regarded Brazilian agricultural intervention, Fomento, for implementation and evaluation in two African countries, Senegal and Malawi. The rigorous impact […]

What Makes Urban Food Policy Happen? Insights from five case studies

Cities are rising as powerful agents in the world of food, says a new report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), and they are finding innovative ways to put in place policies that take on challenges in global food systems. The report shows that food policy is no longer the […]

FAO Social Protection Framework

FAO Social Protection Framework presents the Organization’s vision and approach to social protection. FAO recognizes the critical role social protection plays in furthering and accelerating progress around food security and nutrition, agriculture development, rural poverty and resilience building. Link to French version Link to Spanish version

The Future of Food and Agriculture: trends and challenges

The report sheds some light on the nature of the challenges that agriculture and food systems are facing now and throughout the 21st century, and provides some insights as to what is at stake and what needs to be done. What emerges is that “business as usual” is no longer an option but calls for […]

The Rights to Social Protection and Adequate Food: Human rights‐based frameworks for social protection in the context of realizing the right to food and the need for legal underpinnings

The right to adequate food lies at the heart of the mandate of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). That concept takes into consideration the availability, access and adequacy of food, and that individuals, alone or in community with others, may acquire food through their own production, through purchases with their […]

Realizing the Right to Social Security and the Right to Food (ESS Working Paper No. 51)

This paper identifies conceptual synergies and dissonances between food security and income security. It considers the contribution of mainstream social protection instruments, such as cash transfers, to food security. The paper presents specific food security policies that would strengthen the ability of national social protection floors to address food insecurity. The paper explores the links […]

Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty (The State of Food and Agriculture 2015)

This edition of The State of Food and Agriculture makes the case that social protection measures will help break the cycle of rural poverty and vulnerability, when combined with broader agricultural and rural development measures. This report’s key messages are: Social protection programmes reduce poverty and food insecurity. Effective targeting and adequate transfers are important […]


FAO Releases the 2015 State of Food and Agriculture

Today, FAO released its annual report, The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA). The theme of this year’s SOFA report is Social Protection and Agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty. The theme comes at a crucial time. September marked the Sustainable Development Summit in New York, where the post-2015 development agenda was agreed upon. […]

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