There’s a big fight in Congress right now over how we do international food aid and what needs fixing.
Nearly 900 million today suffer from hunger and we often hear that the US government is the world’s biggest donor of food aid. The Obama Administration, facing a tight fiscal landscape, is trying to reform the way we do food aid to reach more people without increasing the amount of money we spend on it (which isn’t really that much, in the scheme of things, something like $1.8 billion).
Reformers who support the President’s and USAID’s plan say we could feed anywhere from 4-10 million more people if we ended certain practices – such as requiring all food for aid be purchased from American farmers, as opposed to farmers overseas. Opponents of the reform proposal include many in agri-business, shipping and some humanitarian organizations like World Vision, and give many different reasons for wanting to largely maintain the status quo.
One of the main reasons opponents reform give is that the current US food aid system is a great success and works well.
Many disagree. The latest evidence against the US approach comes courtesy of Duncan Green at Oxfam. Green notes in his blog From Poverty to Power that an independent analysis of donor countries called the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index shows the US approach is actually not so great:
The US comes in a pretty pitiful 18/23, mainly due to its relatively low spending on hunger reduction and nutrition programmes in relation to its GDP. It is also less likely than many other OECD countries to sign up to international treaties and frameworks. Go to the site for the interactive data and map.