SEATTLE, Washington — Food security is the idea that an individual has “physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods” that help ensure their health. It is a significant issue around the world. According to the United Nations, 820 million people do not have enough to eat. In fact, the number of people who are undernourished rose from 2015 to 2018 after about a decade of declines. More than 2 billion people are believed to be food insecure. These figures are only expected to grow in the coming decades, thanks to factors like changing climate, growing global population and rising food prices. The U.S. passed the Global Food Security Act of 2016 and its 2018 successor the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act. Aid organizations and data show that these bills have made a difference in the fight for global food security. Here’s a look at their impact to date.
The Beginnings of the Global Food Security Act
The government passed the Global Food Security Act of 2016 as an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Its aim was to enhance U.S. efforts to “promote global food security, resilience and nutrition.” The act called for the development and implementation of a Global Food Security Strategy around these purposes. The strategy would include things like fostering agricultural growth, particularly in terms of advancing small-scale farming; improving food health for women and children and leveraging U.S. partnerships and investments across sectors to address these agricultural, food, sanitation, water and related deficiencies around the world.
At the heart of the act and its mission is the Feed the Future program. The Obama administration created Feed the Future in 2010 to be the U.S.’s flagship food security initiative. The program brings together partners from across various industry sectors and the U.S. government to coordinate ways to help needy countries transform their food systems to improve food security. The program found success, but since it was a presidential initiative tied to Obama, its future was uncertain in the wake of the 2016 election. Luckily, the Global FoodSecurity Act of 2016 effectively signed the Feed the Future program into law, thus protecting it beyond election results. However, that act authorized the program only through 2021.
The Global Food Security Reauthorization Act
The goal of introducing the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act was to extend the program, providing more time and capability for implementation and enforcement. President Trump signed this act into law in October 2018. The Reauthorization Act extended the program through 2023 and expanded the requirements for the president’s reports on the progress of the program. This would allow Feed the Future to build on its progress and further address remaining needs. For example, at the time of the Reauthorization Act’s passage, more than 800 million people were still living with food insecurity, according to USAID.
Feed the Future’s Successful Past
Feed the Future began in the wake of what USAID administrator Mark Green referred to as the sharpest global food price spike ever recorded. The spike, which took place from 2007 through 2008, caused a billion more people to go hungry. However, the 2019 GlobalFood Security Strategy Implementation Report shows that since launching Feed the Future in 2010 to 2017, 5.2 million families have escaped hunger.
Furthermore, Feed the Future had a hand in helping 23.4 million more people to rise above the poverty line. Through its efforts, the global poverty rate dropped an average of 23 percent within that seven-year time frame. In areas where Feed the Future works, childhood stunting has dropped by 32 percent.
In 2018 alone, Feed the Future helped more than 175,000 women entrepreneurs. These women gained more access to capital and had more influence in decisions made at home and in their communities. Nations as a whole are also seeing an impact. According to Green’s statement, spending increased by around 25 percent in Feed the Future’s seven African partner countries. These countries have surpassed surrounding nations in domestic agricultural investment.
To share an example of how Feed the Future has made an impact on an individual level, NGO alliance organization InterAction wrote on their blog about a woman named Nlangmal. With the help of Ghana Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) project, an initiative of Global Communities that is supported by USAID and Feed the Future, Nlangmal obtained basic training in financial management. This enabled her to start saving money on a monthly basis and then use her savings and a loan to establish a small business. With her increased income, she was able to get her son needed medical care and her daughter easier access to school.
Feed the Future has made several impacts at the micro and macro level across all its target regions over the last decade. The Global Food Security Act and Global Food Security Reauthorization Act allow it to continue making that difference through direct U.S. efforts and through efforts of other entities established via Feed the Future partnerships. This work has been proven to save millions of lives around the world and benefit the U.S. It will be needed more than ever as threats to food security increase.
– Amanda Ostuni