US Food Aid to Reach More People

Third Way Wider ViewFebruary 28, 2014

“…if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.” — Isaiah 58:10

First, the new farm bill authorized up to $80 million per year for purchases of food closer to countries in need.

The U.S. has a rich history of providing food assistance to countries experiencing severe food shortages. This history dates back to 1954, when Congress passed the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act. At the time, the U.S. was enjoying big surpluses in agricultural commodities. Therefore, the law enabled the U.S. to send these food surpluses to countries in need.

U.S. food aid has saved millions of lives around the world. Yet thousands more lives can be saved with just a few tweaks to the ways in which this aid is administered.

The farm bill, which Congress is required to reauthorize every five years, is the main instrument through which the U.S. government directs its international food aid programs. Earlier this month, Congress passed a new farm bill, which included two major provisions that will make international food aid programs more efficient.

First, the new farm bill authorized up to $80 million per year for purchases of food closer to countries in need. This means that food aid will: (1) cost less to transport because of the shorter distance, (2) arrive sooner, and (3) promote investments in local farmers and economies. In addition, the bill directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a permanent program for local and regional procurement of food.

Secondly, the bill begins to phase out monetization, a practice in which the U.S. government donates food commodities purchased in the U.S. to non-governmental organizations who then sell the food in-country to raise funds for their development programs. This practice is damaging to local economies because it forces local farmers to compete with food aid commodities that are often cheaper. As a result, local farmers are sometimes discouraged from producing food, creating a cycle of food aid dependency instead of sustainable food production.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) works with small scale farmers around the world to improve their food production. MCC also provides emergency food aid in countries experiencing food crises. Visit to learn more about this work.

Posted: 2/28/2014 7:00:00 AM

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