SEATTLE — Despite the efforts of global aid programs, about 805 million people around the world remain chronically hungry. The U.S. Food for Peace program has been a significant force in the fight against global poverty since 1954, but in order to reach more people, U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, say the policy needs updating.
Reaching over three billion people in about 150 countries, the U.S. Food for Peace program arranges for food to be delivered to malnourished people in developing countries. Many of these countries are also affected by conflict and natural disasters.
But much has changed since the program’s inception and the program is now hindered by outdated laws and restrictions. One hindrance comes in the form of cargo preferences. In the early days of the U.S. Food for Peace program, the law required that U.S. flagged vessels be used to ship 50 percent of food and commodities gathered by the program. That rate was increased to 75 percent in 1985.
While only benefiting a small number of big companies, cargo preferences increase transportation costs and reduce the U.S.’s ability to reach hungry people in need of aid. Because of these preferences, more funding goes into transportation costs than purchasing aid. As a result of the rising costs, aid has decreased by 64 percent over the last 10 years.
The Reform Act of 2015 aims to increase the aid programs’ flexibility and free up $440 million a year for the program. The Act would not cost anything extra for American taxpayers.
The reform act also addresses the monetization of food aid programs. Under current law, 15 percent of food donated by the U.S. must be sold by aid organizations in recipient countries. This requirement reduces the ability of local governments to purchase sufficient aid and invest in development.
The Food for Peace Reform Act would scale back the requirement, demonetizing aid programs and thereby increasing the impact of every dollar given in aid.
Food aid programs also struggle from the requirement that all food aid be produced in the U.S. The Reform Act addresses this problem by allowing for local and regional procurements of food and commodities (LRPs).
On average, LRPs would reduce transportation time by approximately 56 days. Multiple studies have estimated the proposed reforms would result in cost savings of 30 to 50 percent in aid efficiency.
A bipartisan legislative effort led by Senators Corker and Coons has worked to address this issue. The two Congressmen reintroduced the Food for Peace Reform Act to the Committee on Foreign Relations in February 2015. The bill will need to be reintroduced again in 2016 to be considered by Congress.
These food aid reforms are more crucial than ever because of dramatically rising rates of displacement around the world. Numerous factors such as global warming, violent conflicts and increasing natural disasters in overpopulated places have contributed to levels of displacement unseen since World War II.
Passing the Food for Peace Reform Act would go a long way in adapting to these modern challenges. By increasing the flexibility of aid organizations, it would ensure that millions more people get what they need in less time and at a lower cost.