- What We Do
- Agriculture and Food Security
- Feed the Future
- Food Assistance
- Food Aid Reform
- Agricultural Markets and Trade
- Agricultural Capacity Development
- Global Nutrition
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Democracy, Human Rights and Governance
- Economic Growth and Trade
- Ending Extreme Poverty
- Environment and Global Climate Change
- Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment
- Global Health
- Water and Sanitation
- Working in Crises and Conflict
- U.S. Global Development Lab
USAID provides emergency food assistance to vulnerable populations affected by natural disasters such as droughts and floods, and in response to conflict. Response tools include U.S.-purchased food (“in kind” food aid) or food purchased in the affected country or region. It sometimes provides beneficiaries with cash or food vouchers so they can directly access food in their local markets. There is no one “right” way to aid hungry people. Interventions depend on food insecurity causes, the functioning of markets, security conditions, and overall program goals. Cost, local diet preferences, and timeliness are also factors.
U.S. In-Kind Food Aid
U.S. in-kind food aid (Title II) is often used to respond to an emergency where: 1. local markets are not functioning; 2. there isn’t enough food in local markets to meet need; or 3. beneficiaries do not have physical access to markets. A typical food basket can include a grain, a pulse, and oil, designed to mirror local diets as much as possible. This food aid takes an average of 4–6 months to reach beneficiaries. Early warning data and speed of delivery factor into final program decisions.
For example: In FY 2013, USAID partnered with the World Food Program to deliver Title II food assistance to vulnerable, crisis-affected populations and internally displaced persons throughout Mali.
Local and Regional Purchase
Locally or regionally purchased commodities are often used when local or regional markets have adequate quantities of food available to supply emergency food assistance programs without impacting prices or commercial trade. Locally or regionally purchased food reaches beneficiaries within 1–2 months.
For example: USAID and partner WFP are providing locally purchased maize meal and beans to internally displaced persons in North and South Kivu affected by the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By purchasing locally, USAID and its partners support Congolese farmers and markets.
Cash Transfers for Food
Cash transfers and vouchers are often used when local markets have sufficient food and people simply can’t afford it. Cash transfers may be used when people are physically spread out or highly mobile, rapid response is high priority, or food needs are so severe people will spend most new income on food.
For example: In remote areas of Niger, families at risk of hunger used ‘smart’ cards to withdraw cash received as part of a program partially funded by USAID . The cards had memory chips to identify beneficiaries and specify the amount of money they should receive, enabling Nigeriens to meet their basic food needs.
Vouchers may be used when there are specific security concerns associated with the transfer of cash or there is a need to ensure people receive a specific set of foods. Vouchers can strengthen local markets by enabling participating local vendors to sell more food. Debit card or mobile phone cash transfers, as well as electronic vouchers may benefit local banks and mobile phone companies.
For example: USAID and partner WFP are currently providing food assistance to Syrian refugees through many modalities, including paper and electronic food vouchers. Vouchers are a reliable, timely, and secure way to provide assistance to vulnerable individuals, and also allow families to tailor food assistance to their individual needs while supporting the local economy in refugee hosting areas.
Download PDF [455 kb]
Last updated: February 12, 2014