Scheduled to go into operation in 1963 as a three-year experimental programme, WFP was up and running before it could walk.

An earthquake hit Iran in September 1962, followed by a hurricane in Thailand in October; meanwhile, newly independent Algeria was resettling 5 million refugees: food was urgently needed, WFP supplied it, and it has never stopped since then.

Here are some key dates in WFP's history:

1960 - United States President Dwight Eisenhower proposes to UN General Assembly that "a workable scheme should be devised for providing food aid through the UN system."

1961 - At the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome, George McGovern, director of the US Food for Peace Programme, proposes the experiment of creating a multilateral food aid programme. Seven months later, FAO and the UN General Assembly approve parallel resolutions that establish the World Food Programme on a three-year experimental basis.

1962 - First session of WFP's governing body, the Intergovernmental Committee, is held in February. Two months later, Addeke Boerma is appointed as WFP's first Executive Director.

1965 - Parallel resolutions of the Food and Agricultural Organization conference (Dec 6) and the UN General Assembly (Dec 20) establish WFP on a continuing basis "for as long as multilateral food is found feasible and desirable".

1974 – The UN World Food Conference in Rome, Italy adopts resolution XVIII on 'An improved policy for food aid' and recommends the reconstitution of WFP's governing body as the Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes. This committee holds its first session in 1976.

1996 – The governing body is reconstituted in its current form, as a 36-member Executive Board. The first meeting is held in January.

1999 - WFP Executive Board decides that the Programme should continue to support development as well as emergency activities.

2003 - WFP receives an official mandate to provide air transport services for humanitarian operations, UN-wide. The mandate includes transporting thousands of UN personnel and ensuring the safety of humanitarian air operations.

2007 - The WFP-managed Humanitarian Response Depots (HRDs) network is rolled-out, enabling the humanitarian community to coordinate the immediate delivery of relief by drawing on pre-positioned strategic reserves of basic and operational supplies.

2008 - A new strategic plan for WFP is approved by the Executive Board in June, giving the programme more nuanced tools to move from food aid to food assistance.