U.S. Food Assistance Reform Will Enable More Food to Reach Hungry People

U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget proposal, which was announced today, includes reforms to how U.S. food aid is managed that will enable an estimated two to four million more hungry people to be fed every year with the same resources.

While maintaining a significant level of in-kind food aid procurements from the United States, U.S. food aid will be paired with a more expansive use of local and regional procurement and food vouchers.

According to David Lane, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies in Rome, “It is critical that we use a variety of tools, so that we can respond quickly and flexibly to hunger needs around the world.  These reforms will allow food aid to be delivered more efficiently, by enabling humanitarian agencies to choose the best means for meeting urgent needs in diverse situations.”

Since it was established in 1954, the Food for Peace Program has helped more than three billion people in over 150 countries.  Over the years, the program has been reformed and modernized to respond to changing economic circumstances and best practices in the delivery of food aid.  Studies by Cornell University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that local and regional procurement of food and other cash-based programs can get food to people in critical need 11 to 14 weeks faster, while costing 25 – 50 percent less.  Without the option of cash-based resources, for example, USAID would have been unable to respond to last year’s Sahel crisis in a timely manner.  These tools also can help reduce the scope of crises and help prevent their recurrence, by encouraging local economies and by sustaining local agricultural producers and markets.

However, the direct provision of U.S. commodities is the most effective approach in some situations, particularly for many special foods and large cereal procurements. These may be unavailable elsewhere in the world or produced in insufficient amounts by developing countries near crises.  U.S. commodities should therefore continue to play a vital role in U.S. emergency food assistance.  In 2014, no less than 55 percent of U.S. funding for emergency food assistance will continue to be used for the purchase, transport, and related costs of U.S. commodities.  When local and regional food is procured, it will be purchased only from developing countries near the site of the crisis.

The 2014 U.S. budget proposal retains the current level of slightly over $1.5 billion in funding for food assistance.  Ambassador Lane stated, “I am always proud of the generosity of the American people and their willingness to support humanitarian assistance even in times of tight budgets.  I look forward to continuing our support for the excellent work of our United Nations partners, and our ongoing collaboration to find better ways to meet the needs of the world’s hungry.”