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More Flexibility Needed In U.S. Food Aid System

“While far more aid is still needed in Syria and [for] the refugees in neighboring countries, the U.S. government has been able to pursue a flexible approach in the country that better responds to needs on the ground,” Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA, and Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, write in a Christian Science Monitor opinion piece. “Yet such flexibility is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to U.S. food aid programs,” they continue, adding, “Instead, the vast majority of American food aid comes from another program altogether, one that is ensnared by red tape and regulations from another era.” They highlight a food aid reform proposal included in the Obama administration’s FY 2014 budget request and write, “With hunger bound to arise as a topic of discussion at the G8 Summit later this month, quicker and more flexible food aid can be a practical solution.”

“A more prudent approach, as allowed by Mr. Obama’s proposed reforms, would allow aid agencies to buy food from local farmers, or the closest supplier who offers the best price,” Gayle and Offenheiser continue. “While the president’s budget does not completely eliminate every outdated restriction that slows the delivery of U.S. food aid and inflates its cost, the reforms represent an important step in the right direction,” they state. The U.S. “needs a flexible response when addressing emergencies and chronic hunger,” they write, concluding, “Let’s take a stand and make sure U.S. citizens encourage their members of Congress to support modernizing America’s food aid system to provide maximum value for taxpayers while feeding as many hungry people as possible” (6/6).