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ABC News Reports On U.S. Food Aid Policy

ABC News examines U.S. food aid policy, which “requires that food aid money be spent on food grown in the U.S., at least half of it must be packed in the U.S. and most of it must be transported in U.S. ships.” But “critics are complaining that” these policies are “exacerbating the cycle of starvation.”

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) data “shows that of the nearly $2 billion a year allocated to foreign food aid, more than half of the funds are spent on transport, not the food,” ABC News writes. Last month, a GAO report on international food aid “concluded that U.S. food aid shipped to 10 different Sub-Saharan African countries costs 34 percent more than food bought locally and regionally by the World Food Program.”

According to Chris Barrett – a development economics professor at Cornell University, “The median time to deliver emergency aid from the U.S. is just under five months … At a time when food aid is more important than ever before and we don’t follow best global practices.”

Some international groups are pushing for the law to be reformed and the Obama administration has said it wants a more flexible food aid policy. In a statement, a USAID spokesperson said, “The administration requested $300 million in International Disaster Assistance for an ‘emergency food security fund.’ This fund expands the U.S. government humanitarian tool-kit by enabling us to procure food locally or regionally, or to provide vouchers for food available in local markets, when our own food assistance is too far away, or when there is ample food in the market, but crisis affected households cannot afford to buy it.”

On the other hand, Rebecca Bratter, the policy director for U.S. Wheat Associates, says the current policy is not focused on benefitting U.S. agribusiness, rather it ensures that hungry people are fed in the safest, most effective way. “We are feeding people in emergency situations. Nobody donates more food than the United States,” she said. “Countries should become commercial markets and not donation markets, but that can’t happen in a year.” Bratter “warns that a total switch from in-kind food donations to cash for local buying could produce a backlash in food aid funding,” ABC News writes.

The article also addresses a recent Oxfam report and includes additional analysis from experts. It includes an accompanying video that aired on ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson (Hughes, 10/29).