Providing Commodities Not Always Best Solution In Food Security Crises

In a New York Times “Opinionator” piece, journalist Tina Rosenberg examines the Obama administration’s proposed changes to the U.S. food aid program, which would provide more flexibility to allow for cash purchases of food locally or from U.S. farmers, as well as end monetization. In addition, the proposal “is planning to ask American companies to provide not just commodities but also super-nutritious foods for the severely malnourished — in general modernizing food aid,” she writes. “American food aid is slow and inefficient,” she states, adding these inefficiencies “exist because when the program began in 1954, its core purpose was not to feed the hungry but to keep American crop prices high by disposing of surpluses.” However, “there are no more commodity surpluses,” Rosenberg writes, noting many regions facing food security crises have food available for purchase in local markets but “people are just too poor to buy it.” She continues, “In those places, giving individuals or charitable groups cash to buy food can make food aid cheaper, faster and fairer. By strengthening and not undercutting local farmers, cash aid also helps countries to avoid hunger later.” She notes that USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the proposed changes to the food aid program “would allow the United States to feed four million more people for the same cost” (4/24).

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