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The Impact of Cash Transfers on Food Consumption in Humanitarian Settings: A review of evidence

May 2013 — By Sara Bailey

In order to make informed decisions on when to use cash, vouchers and food aid, it is important to understand evidence on their appropriateness and effectiveness in achieving certain objectives. A main objective of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank is to improve food consumption in emergencies, and this paper reviews evidence on the impact of cash and vouchers in achieving this result. While this review focuses on food consumption, there are many other factors that are important in considering the appropriateness of cash, vouchers and food aid in a given context, including markets, cost, risk, gender and the impacts of different transfers on households, communities and markets.

This study examines evidence on how interventions using cash and vouchers affect food consumption. It does this by reviewing studies, pilots and evaluations that compare the effectiveness of cash, vouchers and food aid, as well as evaluations of programmes using cash and vouchers that do not draw comparisons between different food assistance transfers. It focuses on humanitarian contexts but also briefly examines findings on the impact of longer-term cash transfer programmes on food consumption in development contexts, which have been subject to extensive research.