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Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Food security - food transfers standard 2: Appropriateness and acceptability

The food items provided are appropriate and acceptable to recipients so that they can be used efficiently and effectively at the household level.

Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Guidance notes

  1. Familiarity and acceptability: While nutritional value is the primary consideration when choosing a food basket, the commodities should be familiar to the recipients and consistent with religious and cultural traditions, including any food taboos for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Vulnerable people should participate in consultations on food choice. If unfamiliar food is used, it should have the potential to be palatable locally. In assessment reports and requests to donors, choices of foods (inclusion and exclusion) should be explained. When disasters prevent access to cooking facilities, ready-to-use foods must be provided (see also Infant and young child feeding standard 2). Without cooking facilities, there may be no alternative to providing unfamiliar food and special ‘emergency rations’may also be considered.
  2. Food storage and preparation: People’s ability to store food should inform the choice of commodity. For water requirements, see Water supply standard 1. A fuel assessment is needed to inform food selection, ensure beneficiaries can cook food sufficiently to avoid health risks and prevent environmental degradation and possibly security risks through excessive wood-fuel collection (see Protection Principle 1). Generally, food provided should not require long cooking time or large quantities of water. Milled grain normally reduces cooking time and fuel. For cooking equipment, see Food security – food transfers standard 6 and Non-food items standard 3 and standard 4.
  3. Food processing: Wholegrain cereal has the advantage of a longer shelf life and may have a higher value to recipients. Where household-level grinding is traditional or where there is access to local mills, wholegrain cereal can be distributed. Facilities can be provided for low-extraction commercial milling: this removes germ, oil and enzymes (which cause rancidity) and greatly increases shelf life, although it also reduces protein content. Milling is a particular concern for maize: milled whole maize has a shelf life of only six to eight weeks so milling should occur shortly before consumption. National laws on import and distribution of wholegrain cereals should be respected. Milling costs to recipients may be met by cash or vouchers, the less-preferred approach of additional grain or provision of milling equipment.
  4. Culturally important items: The assessment should identify culturally important condiments and other food items that are an essential part of daily food habits (e.g. spices, tea) and determine the access people have to these items. The food basket should be designed accordingly, especially where people will depend on food rations for an extended period.
  5. Milk: There should be no untargeted distribution of free or subsidised infant formula, milk powder, liquid milk or milk products as a single commodity (this includes milk intended for mixing with tea) in a general food distribution or a take-home supplementary feeding programme as their indiscriminate use may cause serious health hazards. Any interventions involving milk should be in accordance with the Operational Guidance on IFE, the International Code of Marketing of BMS and subsequent relevant WHA resolutions (see Infant and young child feeding standard 1 and standard 2).