High food prices in 2008 and 2010 generated concern about food security in developing countries. The number of food insecure people was estimated to have jumped significantly and food assistance donors were faced with unexpectedly high procurement bills. This paper discusses how high food prices affect the delivery of food assistance, focusing on recipient effects and on procurement decisions. Recent changes in Canadian food assistance policies are discussed in the context of high commodity prices, and food assistance flows during recent periods of high prices are reviewed. Two empirical investigations relating to high food prices are undertaken. First, the degree of price transmission from world markets to local and regional markets, where a growing share of food assistance is being purchased, is shown to vary widely across countries and provides some insulation for food assistance against world price shocks. Second, the degree to which donors substitute between important food assistance commodities when relative commodity prices change is examined. There is significant substitution between protein sources in food assistance baskets, but not between cereals.


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