The high and volatile food prices in 2007–8 triggered estimates of massive increases in poverty and hunger. However, hunger and volatile food prices have long been a feature of developing economies. This paper examines the impact of high global food prices on domestic terms-of-trade, food consumption and child undernutrition in the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Liberia and Sierra Leone, comparing findings with the impacts of ‘seasonality’. As high international food prices permeated domestic markets, households in all the case study areas resorted to coping strategies common in the annual hunger season. Though acute malnutrition has not risen as consistently as in a seasonal hunger crisis, reduced micronutrient intake threatens to have severe long-term consequences for health and poverty reduction. The similar impacts of seasonal and global food price rises on households provide an opportunity to design appropriate interventions to protect livelihoods.