SEATTLE — After a landmark vote on Wednesday in Congress, the Global Food Security Act of 2016 (GFSA) is on its way to the president’s desk to become law. The GFSA aims to build on existing food security programs to successfully reduce global poverty and hunger, improve nutrition and resilience in developing countries and advance U.S. interests abroad. The bipartisan measure has three main components:
1. Finance U.S. food security investments through 2018.
The majority of this funding goes towards Feed the Future, a U.S. government agricultural development program that partners with smallholder farmers, many of whom are women, to sustainably increase harvests, economic growth and trade. Feed the Future’s educational model guarantees that the U.S. gives aid wisely by helping the world’s most vulnerable learn how to help themselves and their families.
The USAID reports that Feed the Future’s leadership is helping diminish widespread problems such as childhood stunting and rural poverty. In addition, Feed the Future’s partners saw their combined sales skyrocket from $38 million in 2011 to $538 million in 2014.
2. Offer two years of International Disaster Assistance (IDA) funding.
In the wake of natural or man-made disasters, additional IDA funding will help save countless lives around the world and preserve U.S. safety in the wake of uncontrolled conflict. IDA is a crucial aspect of U.S. foreign aid. According to Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), “Recent experiences have shown that the U.S. being able to deliver effective emergency disaster assistance in places like Syria, would help bring an end to refugees attempting the dangerous journey to Europe.”
Passage of the GFSA also means that Congress has authorized USAID’s Emergency Food Security Program (EFSP). The EFSP rapidly delivers locally-grown food and other commodities to those in dire need through electronic voucher systems.
The program offers an alternative to Food for Peace, which provides U.S. grown food aid, but takes much longer to be delivered due to shipping. It also ensures that food quickly reaches the most vulnerable when catastrophe strikes and safeguards the waste of Food for Peace goods.
3. Require coordination between federal bodies.
In order to ensure that valuable U.S. foreign assistance does not go to waste, the GFSA necessitates that all U.S. government departments with food security initiatives work together, liaise and share information with Congress. By holding all branches of government accountable, Congress can readily track foreign assistance dollars and measure the success of their implementation to reduce spending.
The GFSA received praise and support from both sides of the aisle. In a statement released by the White House yesterday afternoon, President Obama said, “I know that with the continued effort and support that this legislation provides, we can achieve what was just a few years ago the unimaginable: We can end global poverty and hunger within our lifetimes.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), explained that food insecurity is not only a problem for the hungry, rather it negatively impacts the global economy, world peace and sustainability. Similarly, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) defended food security as an essential part of U.S. national interests.
“The Borgen Project applauds Congress for this historic victory which will go a long way in providing smallholder farmers with the tools they need to improve productivity, overcome food insecurity and build resilient local communities,” said Lynsey Alexandar, Chief of Staff at The Borgen Project.
Photo: Bread for the World