Food Assistance

Approximately 805 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger, which kills more people every year than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined. Food assistance is one method to mitigate this crisis.

USAID’s food assistance efforts are an expression of the compassion and goodwill of the people of the United States. The lifesaving assistance we provide can also help to stabilize fragile situations. 

Our emergency food assistance and multi-year development programs:

  • Monitor food insecurity throughout the world;
  • Save lives in times of crisis;
  • Tackle chronic undernutrition; and
  • Help the most vulnerable break the cycle of poverty and hunger through agriculture and livelihoods support.

Many development food aid programs target disaster-prone areas and are designed to help reduce the need for emergency assistance over time.

Food Assistance in Action:

  • The United States is currently the largest donor of food assistance to Syria. USAID-funded programs help feed millions of refugees and internally displaced persons affected by the crisis in and around Syria. USAID works with the UN World Food Program (WFP) and other partners to most effectively deliver this lifesaving aid. Click here to see how WFP is transporting life-sustaining food bars purchased in the U.S. to Syrian refugees in Erbil, Iraq. Or click here to see more on a U.S.-funded food voucher program for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
  • Programs such as this one in Malawi have helped farmers form marketing clusters to attract bulk buyers and bargain for better produce prices. Increased profits mean farmers can now invest in their farms, and has led to increased financial security for families. 
  • In Guatemala, USAID and Save the Children are fighting malnutrition and stunting in children by educating mothers on the importance of proper nutrition and growth monitoring during the first 1,000 days of a child's life.  Watch this video to see the program in action: Getting to the Root of Malnutrition in Guatemala
  • Yemen, a nation plagued by conflict and poverty, currently ranks as the 7th most food-insecure country in the world. Nearly 42% of the population is considered food insecure and 47% of its children under 5 are stunted. Since the start of FY 2013, USAID has contributed over $61 million of life-supporting food assistance to WFP in Yemen. To see how USAID and WFP work together to combat food insecurity, click on this video.

We are providing more effective food assistance:

  • Building on the latest in nutrition science, our in-kind food products are being reformulated and new products are being added to better meet the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations around the world.
  • USAID has adopted a state-of-the-art supply-chain management system that allows us to preposition food strategically, significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to reach people in need. 
  • Since 2010, in-kind foods are now complemented by a cash-based emergency food security program that allows USAID to buy some food locally and regionally. The cash program also allows USAID to support interventions that enable hungry people to access local markets.
  • These tools are directed with the help of a state-of-the-art early-warning system that applies remote monitoring techniques with in-country data gathering and analysis in key food insecure locations. Today the USAID funded Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) is one of the most highly regarded early-warning systems in the world.

Food Aid Reform Proposal:

Last year, President Obama proposed common sense reforms that would enable us to reach up to four million more people in food crises around the world with the same resources, by making the successful USAID Title II program more flexible, efficient and effective. This year, the President’s request builds on positive reforms enacted in 2014 that will enable USAID to reach more people annually with the same resources in chronically food insecure communities, including about 600,000 more people through the 2014 Farm Bill, and another 200,000 people in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.

The flexibility provided in the Farm Bill will allow USAID to practically eliminate monetization (the sale of commodities overseas to fund development activities) above the 15% floor required by law, while also providing additional flexibility for use in all Title II programs. These changes reduce costs and offer USAID a wider range of programming options that can improve program outcomes and help achieve more sustainable results, particularly within development programs.

In the FY 2015 budget request, the President seeks to build on these important changes, and further expand the reach and impact of life-saving emergency food operations. The FY 2015 request seeks additional flexibilities within the Title II account that will allow USAID to reach about two million more people in emergency crises each year.  Click here to learn more about food aid reform

While our ability to meet the challenges of hunger has become more sophisticated, our goal remains constant: To help people everywhere enjoy active and productive lives and, ultimately, achieve a world where no one needs food assistance.

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Last updated: September 22, 2014

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