Food Utilisation

This section provides more details on food utilisation. It starts with a general definition, it continues with an overview of the possible response options and it concludes with the presentation of an innovative intervention promoting sustainable energy technologies for food utilization.

Food utilisation regards two dimensions.
Firstly, it is defined as the physical use of food by an individual prior to consumption, including its storage, and processing, preparation and allocation within the household.
The second dimension regards the body’s biological use of food after consumption. This relates to the ability of the human body to absorb the food and convert its macro and micronutrients components in order to satisfy the physiological needs of the body.

Adequate food utilization requires:

  • a diet providing sufficient energy and all the essential nutrients,
  • proper feeding practices,
  • potable water,
  • adequate sanitation,
  • proper access to fuel / energy and appropriate technologies for food processing, preparation and conservation.
  • access to health services and illness management.

Possible response options when there is an inadequate of food utilisation may be:

  • Training and awareness raising, for example on child feeding practices and food hygiene;
  • Improve access to items required for preparing and storing food, such as provision of safe water, cooking sets, fuel or access to energy system, access to milling facilities etc.; This includes technologies that limit the exposure to hazard like toxic smoke, dangerous fireplace, unsafe electricity system, etc.
  • Complementary activities, especially those to grant access to adequate health and sanitation facilities.

Infant and Young Children Feeding

EU humanitarian food assistance interventions implemented by the Commission will seek opportunities to uphold and promote favourable infant and child-feeding practices. Specifically, EU-funded humanitarian food assistance interventions will avoid discouraging or disrupting the breastfeeding of infants.
Find more here. Please refer to the Guidance Document: Infant and young children feeding in emergencies.

Technologies and Sustainable Energy for Food Utilization – Aspects to be taken into account

ECHO partners are strongly encouraged to identify and address food utilization needs and to use of the most appropriate, available and accessible technologies taking into account:

local cultureA technology may considerably reduce the time spent and the security risks of women searching for fuel (i.e. energy saving stove). It may reduce the need to walk too many times for long distances to get water or to purchase fresh, but perishable food (i.e. better food storage facility). However, some technologies may be appropriate in a context, but not in another one. Beneficiaries should be consulted to select the best solutions. public healthFor instance, in some cases the use of modern and unexpansive energy saving stoves can contribute to reduce health risks associated to indoor smoke pollution and consequent morbidity and mortality for women and children. Similarly safer cooking and storage facilities are associated with reduced domestic accidents like child burns. environmentA technology could also be selected to contribute to reduce the impact on environment degradation caused by a humanitarian crisis. For instance, energy efficient stoves consuming less wood or not at all like solar system, can have considerable impact in reducing tree cutting.

Technologies and Sustainable Energy for Food Utilization – Tools

Three important tools are now available to choose the appropriate technology:



These tools were developed by the project SET4Food supported through the Enhanced Response Capacity (ERC) funds of ECHO (see next slide).

Technologies and Sustainable Energy for Food Utilization – Project

Check for more information on set4foodNGOs staff working in emergencies often make decisions under pressure, without background and adequate competences on energy issues. Consequently, the selected strategies do not always comply with the requirement of sustainability and do not exploit the most effective energy technologies available at international and/or local level.
SET4FOOD project is implemented by Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI) in partnership with Politecnico di Milano, Fondazione Politecnico, Safe Access to Fuel and Energy Humanitarian Working Group (SAFE), WFP, FAO and UNHCR, promoting sustainable energy technologies for food utilization.
This project supported through the Enhanced Response Capacity (ERC) funds of ECHO focuses on the nexus linking food utilization to energy availability, efficiency and sustainability in humanitarian food crisis.
- an innovative and interactive web based Decision Support System (DSS) suggesting the most appropriate technologies to be implemented according to the specific context;
- ad hoc guidelines guiding on the most recent technologies like improved cooking stoves, solar panels, integrated renewable energy systems (IRES), hybrid solar photovoltaic/wind systems
- in-presence trainings and e-learning on “efficient and sustainable energy technologies for food utilization”

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Food utilisation




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