Little is known about the potential for food assistance in the form of cash and food transfers to improve nutrition and create demand for nutritious food in crises. This study investigated the influence of the World Food Programme’s cash and food transfers on the diversity and quality of diets among recipient households in Mozambique and the implications of this for the design of systemic food assistance intentions. The study found that direct food provision improved dietary diversity, while cash enabled beneficiaries to purchase more nutritious foods and improve their diet quality. Both cash and food transfers have potential to generate demand for a variety of nutritious foods in the communities investigated through this study. Providing adequate rations of basic food with a cash portion could improve both dietary diversity and quality and stimulate demand for nutritious foods by addressing both income (purchasing power) constraints as well as stimulating demand for these foods. This demand could have a pull factor in terms of local food systems, stimulating demand not only for food but also for food system services – both upstream and downstream – provided a functioning market exists. Context analysis is necessary to understand if cash injections could lead to price spikes, eroding purchasing power and if the incentives exist for private traders to respond to demand.