SEATTLE, Washington — In October 2020, Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), along with Representatives Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), introduced a bicameral, bipartisan resolution. This resolution underscores the need for continued investments in the developing world in regards to agricultural development and improved nutrition, especially for children. The economic burden of COVID-19 has only heightened the need for these investments. The resolution highlights the significant success of the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) decade-long global food security program, Feed the Future.
Global Food Insecurity
The Feed the Future resolution emphasizes the importance of food security and nutrition for the safety, prosperity and health of a society. Food insecurity hinders economic development and slows human development. A 2020 report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World found that:
- Global hunger has increased since 2014
- Around two billion people experience food insecurity worldwide
- Currently, 750 million people are severely food insecure
- At least 60 million people have become undernourished since 2014
- Food insecurity has stunted 144 million children between 2018-2019
- Around 47 million children were wasting between 2018-2019 due to food insecurity
COVID-19 and Food Insecurity
The resolution shows the potential impact of COVID-19 on food insecurity. It estimates a “doubling of severe hunger” from 135 million to 265 million people as well as “an increase in child wasting” from 47 million to 52 million by 2021. Not only has COVID-19 dramatically exacerbated global food insecurity but it has also revealed key vulnerabilities in food systems worldwide. These indicate a lack of resiliency when it comes to food security shocks.
Like many of the impacts of COVID-19, those most harmed by the pandemic were those already dealing with food insecurity. This shows the need for rapid investments in programs like USAID’s Feed the Future. Additionally, malnutrition and food insecurity in low and middle-income countries are major contributing factors to social and political instability, impacting a country’s economic growth. Moreover, this destabilization poses an indirect threat to U.S. national security, according to the U.S. intelligence community’s findings in a 2014 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the United States.
Food insecurity breeds broader instability that erodes both international peace and U.S. national security, giving credence to the need for further investments to accelerate efforts to improve global food security. Senator Casey commented that “We have to continue to meet the challenge of food insecurity head-on. Food insecurity has had a devastating impact on vulnerable children and combating hunger and malnutrition around the world is a national security imperative for the United States.”
What is Feed the Future?
USAID crafted Feed the Future in response to the 2007-2008 spike in food prices around the world. Feed the Future is a “whole-of-government initiative” bringing a multi-sectoral approach to eliminating hunger and malnutrition. By joining with the global research and science community, the private sector, donors, civil society, American agricultural expertise and governments in partner countries, Feed the Future has targeted 12 countries with additional efforts in another 35 aligned countries.
The program’s main goals include transforming agricultural practices, building resilience, elevating nutrition and improving the exchange of technologies, ideas and products. Thanks to its direct efforts, Feed the Future has helped:
- Eliminate hunger for 5.2 million families
- Lift 23.4 million people out of poverty
- Prevent 3.4 million children from stunted growth
- Advance women’s economic empowerment through technical assistance in agricultural systems
- Increase U.S. agricultural and trade exports by $1.4 billion
In 2016, the passage of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) codified Feed the Future’s efforts by implementing a broad-reaching U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy. Notably, the GFSA represented a bipartisan commitment that signaled to the international community that improving food security remains a top U.S. priority. It requires a comprehensive, integrated approach. In 2018, President Trump reauthorized the GFSA for another five years.
The Feed the Future Resolution
The recent Feed the Future resolution supports further investments in this and other U.S. global food security programs. In order to end global hunger, particularly in light of COVID-19’s exacerbation of food insecurity, the resolution calls for increased attention on building resilience, empowering women, youth, and smallholder farmers, improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene and boosting nutrition and health.
It further asks USAID to annually review the program, expand the list of target countries and enter into partnerships with local organizations in program regions. In addition, it wants to conduct research on maternal and child malnutrition in the first 1,000-days of life and bring renewed attention to the impact smallholder farmers and women have on improving food security and driving economic growth. Finally, the resolution asks the relevant federal agencies to improve coordination across agencies, contribute expertise to the 2021 Global Food Security Strategy and Research Strategy and prioritize U.S. foreign assistance in eliminating food insecurity.
The U.S. has played a vital role in the reduction of hunger in the past. The Feed the Future resolution recognizes that, in the face of COVID-19’s unprecedented challenges, continued investments in global food security programs will be imperative in combating significant increases in global hunger.
– Samantha Friborg