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Social protection for food security

A report by The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition


About this resource

Resource type:Research, reports and studies
Keywords:Environment, Food and nutrition, Food security, Health, Non-food, Poverty, Protection, human rights & security, Shelter and housing
Agency:FAO - Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
Date published:June 2012

Food insecurity refers to both the inability to secure an adequate diet today and the risk of being unable to do so in the future. Social protection is a menu of policy instruments that addresses poverty and vulnerability, through social assistance, social insurance and efforts at social inclusion. Social protection has risen rapidly up the development policy agenda. This report aims to review evidence and experience, and proposes recommendations for using social protection more effectively to protect and promote food security. The analysis is framed by the recognition that the right to adequate food and the right to social protection are human rights under international law, and that implementing social protection policies and programmes using a rights based approach is not only morally and legally appropriate but is likely to lead to improved food security outcomes.

People who are already poor are vulnerable to hunger because they lack the resources to meet their basic needs on a daily basis. They are also highly vulnerable to even small shocks that will push them closer to destitution, starvation, even premature mortality. The appropriate social protection response to chronic poverty-related food insecurity is social assistance linked to ‘livelihood promotion’ measures that enhance incomes. People who are not poor now but face the risk of future poverty are vulnerable to hunger if these risks materialise and they are inadequately protected against them (they will face transitory food insecurity). These people need effective ‘social safety nets’.

Social protection systems should not be seen as ‘deadweight’ burdens on fiscal systems. Welldesigned social protection interventions are good for growth. In particular, by preventing the depletion of assets and reducing the personal risk of investing for the poor, social protection can be a ‘win-win’ strategy: pro-poor and pro-growth. 

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