Changing USA’s Food Aid Policy

In a recent Washington Post article entitled “Budget proposes shift in providing food aid to needy nations“, it is reported that the Obama administration is pushing for improvements to the current model (“Food for Peace”) of food aid delivery. Thanks to agriculture and shipping lobbies, the USA takes food from its farms and ships it around the world, either for sale or to feed people. The proposed change would see more food bought in the particular foreign country or region. “Although the United States is the biggest provider of food assistance in the world, it is the only donor nation that continues to require national purchases and shipment.”

USA’s Agency for International Development (USAID), reports that “local purchase of food allows for a response time nearly 14 weeks faster” than shipping from the USA and “it can be 30 percent cheaper for certain types of commodities.” The savings come by removing the transportation step. Rather than passing through many levels of transport from the farms of America to the coastline port across the seas to a port abroad and then to a given destination, the new model allows for more food to be purchased locally. Although this is not a complete restructuring of how food aid is delivered, since “55 percent of food assistance funds will still be used to purchase and transport U.S. commodities”, it is a move in the right direction. The cost savings resulting from less shipping will also mean that America could feed 4 million additional children.

This type of change to a more efficient, less self interested view of aid will have tremendous benefits to the people who will inevitably receive food aid, like the refugees fleeing Syria. As a result of the ongoing Syrian civil war, there are over one million people who have been displaced from their homes, now living in refugee camps in neighboring countries, and undoubtedly receiving foreign aid to help feed themselves. Wouldn’t it be better for growers in these host countries to receive funds to grow their farms and provide jobs to feed this influx of people, rather than have to compete with large shipments of subsidized American crops? Wouldn’t it be better for refugees to use the grains that are known to them and easier for them to cook with, rather than new grains that they may never have seen before?

Let’s hope our country and others around the world are thinking about the recipients of aid first and foremost, rather than themselves.

What other improvements could be made in the way aid is delivered or the way emergencies are addressed?

One of the main reasons for this change comes down to the continuing increases in fuel costs. So, what other type of changes will occur naturally, out of response to economic, environmental, or political factors?

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