IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Food for Peace

U.S.A.I.D. is the primary vehicle through which the U.S. distributes development aid.  Of course, “aid” is a very controversial subject, and I don’t want to get into that here.  However, I thought one aspect of AID’s work was worthy of attention, not least because it has been underway for decades:  the Food for Peace program.

“On July 10, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Agricultural Trade Development Assistance Act—or Public Law (P.L.) 480—into law. The purpose of the legislation, the president said, was to “lay the basis for a permanent expansion of our exports of agricultural products with lasting benefits to ourselves and peoples of other lands.” Since that day, the lasting benefits President Eisenhower envisioned have come to pass. The 106 million metric tons of American food the United States has sent overseas over the past 50 years under Title II, the largest part of P.L. 480, have kept billions of people overseas from hunger, malnutrition, and starvation while creating thousands of jobs in the United States and abroad.

P.L. 480 is the principal mechanism through which the U.S. government implements its international food assistance. Renamed the Food for Peace Act in 2008, the law provides for direct donation of U.S. agricultural commodities to implement emergency and non-emergency programs worldwide. Title II of the Food for Peace Act, which authorizes the vast majority of U.S. international food assistance, is managed by the Office of Food for Peace.”

To get an official overview of the program, you can download the program’s 50th Anniversary booklet here.    I think this bears careful reading.  Why, because one critique of “food aid” is that it is a kind of hidden subsidy for domestic farmers who are overproducing:  ie the government buys the excess and sends it overseas.  However, while I can see this argument the fact remains that something like “Food for Peace” (if done correctly–and I”m not taking a position on that) could be “win/win” –food is moved from where it can be produced in abundance to where it is critically needed in times of severe hardship.   Also, you will note that the program encompasses more than simply feeding the hungry over the short term:

“Other methods of using food aid include
❚ showing farmers better ways to sow and tend their fields or providing
improved seed, thus improving their harvest by linking them with
American knowhow
❚ teaching women about nutrition, resulting in healthier babies and
children
❚ encouraging the production of higher value commodities that could
earn money in local markets
❚ providing micronutrients, such as vitamin A, iodine, zinc, and iron, that
hungry children often lack
❚ feeding children at school to encourage attendance and improve
academic performance”

To me, these represent true development aid:  helping people to help themselves over the long run.  Therefore, it is in regard to these areas that the true efficacy of any program like this should be assessed.

(usual caveats:  just informin’, not endorsin’ 🙂 )

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September 10, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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