Access to food is one of the four pillars of food security. Improving it involves overcoming physical and economic barriers in order to ensure that poor people can obtain the food they need.
Improving employment and creating income-generating activities, two advances that make food more affordable for the poor, facilitate the access to food. Measures should target both rural and urban poor and aim to create opportunities notably through diversification and trade.
Social transfer mechanisms are another powerful way of supporting the most vulnerable groups, such as women and children. Social transfers — non contributory, publicly funded, direct, regular and predictable resource transfers (in cash or in kind) to poor or vulnerable individuals or households — hold great potential in addressing food and nutrition insecurity in the short, medium and long term. The recent global food crisis drew attention to the importance of social transfers in ensuring household food security, reducing poverty and vulnerability and supporting agricultural development. Various types of social transfers, such as seasonal cash transfers, food-for-work or vouchers, have been used in a number of countries to facilitate access to food (directly or through the market) in the short term.
In the medium and long term, protective and productive social transfers have also been scaled up as key elements of predictable social protection and food security strategies. In enhancing agricultural productivity, improving nutrition, reducing poverty or integrating environmental considerations, social transfers contribute to addressing the structural causes of food insecurity. And by preventing the potentially irreversible impacts of malnutrition in early childhood on later life, which particularly affect cognitive development and education outcomes, social transfers can help to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty.