UN IASC Food Security Cluster


The Food Security Cluster (FSC) is one of 11 function-based clusters of the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Cluster System used to approach humanitarian and emergency relief during disasters. The Cluster Approach ensures the coordination of programming and services related to humanitarian and emergency relief activities by coordinating activities based on function instead of geography or organization.

Leading the FSC as co-chairs are the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This shared leadership ensures that long-term agricultural stability and security receive the same emphasis as immediate food relief. Food security requires that people have access to local and sustainable sources of food, not just enough to eat. It isn’t enough to give people food; they need to be enabled to produce their food as well.

Like many clusters, the work of the Food Security Cluster is divided into four primary working groups, each with its own focus and area of responsibility.

  • The Agriculture Working Group provides guidance and support on crops, livestock, fishing and forestry-related subjects.
  • The Cash and Markets Working Group helps to support cash and voucher assistance and guides other market-based approaches to providing food and food security.
  • The Inter-Cluster Nutrition Working Group collaborates with the Global Nutrition Cluster to support in-country organizations with matching nutritional needs with food security needs.
  • Supporting the other three working groups with quality assurance and continuous improvement is the Programme Quality Working Group, which assesses current responses and resolves program quality issues.

According to the Food Security Cluster’s Vision, Mission and Purpose document: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Key Facts

  • The FSC is active in 27 countries, most of which are in Africa and the Middle East. As of May 2021, the Food Security Cluster was active in some of the most food-insecure areas of the world, not only due to geography but also in many countries experiencing complex humanitarian emergencies such as Venezuela, Ethiopia, Syria, Yemen and Myanmar.
  • In 2020, the Food Security Cluster received less than half the funding it required. Yet, it managed to reach 85% of the people it targeted for assistance. According to their 2020 annual report, the Food Security Cluster received $5 billion in funding, far short of the $10.5 billion needed to meet its targeted total of serving 108 million people. Despite this major shortfall, they still managed to reach 92.3 million people with some form of assistance.
  • Food Security requires the most funding of any of the IASC Clusters. In the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, the FSC required 37% of total UN IASC Cluster funding, more than any other cluster. Because food and food security are essential to the safety and survival of people experiencing disasters, conflict and complex humanitarian emergencies, it must be one of the highest priorities of every humanitarian response. Although simply feeding people may be cheaper, it doesn’t provide long-term economic benefits and food aid recipients to continue to rely on handouts from other countries and non-governmental organizations.

How to Help

  • Provide unrestricted cash donations when possible. Cash donations allow participating organizations to provide products and services that are flexible and responsive to the situation’s needs. Cash is particularly important for the FSC because it allows food and agricultural supplies to be purchased locally. This increases the amount of money circulating in the local economy and helps to provide longer-term food security and stability.
  • Support the development of sustainable and environmentally sound farming practices. Local production and supply are essential to long-term food security in any region around the world. Investment in research and development of new and innovative agricultural practices, especially in areas experiencing drought or other effects of climate change, would help make local food more readily available.
  • Fund small-scale food security projects. It is hard to get more local than your neighborhood or even your backyard, so these are some of the best places to help increase food security. Encouraging the use of small-scale farming and food security projects such as community or backyard gardens, community fridges, pantries, hydroponics and other similar initiatives can help localize food production while increasing the capacity and capability of local food producers.
  • Support long-term food preservation education and infrastructure. In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on fresh, locally produced food, especially in richer countries. As a result, there is a growing amount of “imperfect” food going to waste at all levels of food production and consumption. Having the education and infrastructure available to preserve food of all types will allow for longer storage and the ability to carry food stocks over from a good year to a bad year. Canning, freezing, dehydration, pickling, fermenting and curing are all easily learned and can be accomplished with little to no expense by most people with basic kitchen appliances and many without as well.

What Funders Are Doing

As part of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s (CDP) response to COVID-19 through our COVID-19 Response Fund, we have provided funding to many organizations supporting food security, including:

  • Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio received $100,000 to sustain a mental health program that strives to reduce symptom acuity and increase resiliency and self-sufficiency. The grant also supports the Food for All program that seeks to eliminate hunger by improving access to fresh and healthy food choices.
  • Catholic Relief Services received $200,000 to help 500 vulnerable households in Prinzapolka, a small municipality in Nicaragua’s Autonomous Region of the North Caribbean Coast, cope with and overcome the food security crisis exacerbated by hurricanes Eta and Iota while preventing the spread of COVID-19.
  • Farm Share received $75,000 to deliver fresh food to families in need throughout Florida. Farm Share connects family farmers with residents who need but can’t afford fresh food.
  • Near East Foundation received $150,000 to provide a suite of rapid interventions to help vulnerable entrepreneurs, small-scale farmers and food processors adapt their operations and protect their working capital, assets and jobs. The goal is to support the survival and resilience of businesses, small-scale agriculture and market systems that provide critical income, employment and food security. Locations for the work include Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Sudan.

CDP’s Global Recovery Fund has also supported food security:

  • Concern Worldwide received $100,000 in response to Cyclone Idai to restore agricultural livelihoods and support immediate gains in food security among flood-affected communities in southern Malawi. The grant supports efforts to rebuild agricultural productivity through improved irrigation, provision of quality seeds and inputs, and training farmers in adopting farming practices that increase yields in hard-hit southern Malawi.

Grants from other funders have included:

Learn More

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(Photo: WFP food distribution in Tigray region. Source: WFP)

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