The UN's World Food Program estimates that an average urban North Korean's guaranteed diet is around 280g of cereals a day.
However, spokesman Gerald Bourke points out that North Koreans are very adept at foraging for wild food, and may also be given gifts from relatives.
The internationally recommended minimum is 550-590g a day, provided this is nutritionally balanced. But dietary balance is difficult to achieve in North Korea, where foodstuffs such as oil are prohibitively expensive.
The urban diet is partly made up of a ration provided by the government, but this has dropped from 300-250g of cereals per person per day. North Korean officials have told the WFP they expect it to slump to 200g a day.
"The rural folk have already learned how to cope," said Tim Peters, director of aid agency Helping Hands Korea. "But the urban people are so dependent on the government for distribution."
As a result, foreign donations that have helped to prop North Korea up in previous years are doubly important this year.
To date, only 270,000 of the 500,000 tons of food needed for 2005 has arrived, the WFP says.
And there is always the risk of natural disaster.
Floods exacerbated the extreme food shortages 10 years ago, and North Korea's ability to cope with them "is now probably worse", said Mr. French.
[Excerpted from article by Sarah Buckley, BBC News]