The food that WFP distributes depends on the needs of the groups. A suitably composed food basket is critical to maintaining the nutritional status of affected people, especially when they are fully dependent on food aid.
The size and composition of the food basket is tailored to local preferences, demographic profile, activity levels, climatic conditions, local coping capacity and existing levels of malnutrition and disease. It is designed to meet the nutritional requirements of a population rather than individuals (who can be targeted through tailored nutrition programmes).
When people are fully dependent on food assistance, WFP provides 2,100 calories per person, 10-12 percent of which come from protein and 17 percent from fat (according to WHO/FAO guidelines), and micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, iodine and zinc.
When the people we serve are not dependent on us for all of their food needs, the programme only aims to “top up” food that is available, based on an understanding of current access to food. A supplementary ration is mostly given to a vulnerable group such as small children to prevent or treat malnutrition.
What’s in a WFP food basket?
In emergencies or refugee situations, when people are completely dependent on food assistance, the main components of the WFP food basket are:
- a staple such as wheat flour or rice;
- lentils, chickpeas or other pulses;
- vegetable oil (fortified with vitamin A and D);
- sugar; and
- iodized salt
The supplementary ration – used when people have access to some but not enough food – often consists of a fortified blended food, sugar and vegetable oil. An alternative could be a ready-to-eat food fortified with vitamins and minerals, which does not require any cooking or preparation.
The inclusion of fortified foods – cereals, salt and oil or other foods to which micronutrients have been added – helps meet vitamin and mineral requirements.
Fortified blended foods – foods that have been precooked and blended with specific micronutrients – often complement food basket staples. Fortification usually aims to meet adult needs, while vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant and nursing women may require supplements or specially fortified products.