Globally, 795 million people are undernourished. The U.S. contributes food assistance to those in need through several different mechanisms, including in-kind food donations. Under this arrangement, food is purchased directly from U.S. farmers by government agencies and sent overseas to address immediate food shortages. The U.S. is the largest global contributor to food aid and one of the few countries that rely primarily on in-kind donations.
Critics say this form of aid is less efficient than cash donations, may distort local markets, and the food may be monetized – or sold for cash in local markets– rather than used directly to feed hungry people, which can drive down prices for local farmers and adversely affect future production. Proponents of in-kind food donations argue that aid given in the form of cash offers less benefits to U.S. agricultural producers. Critics also argue that U.S. in-kind donations should not be required to be transported on U.S.-flagged vessels, as is sometimes the case.
- Where it is feasible, food aid should be coupled with community-based economic development programs that enhance agricultural productivity in order to promote future food security.
- Regardless of its form, food aid should not distort local markets or harm local food production.
- The key goal of any development program is to get food to people in need. That requires policies that are flexible enough to deal with a variety of emergency situations, such as natural disasters or refugee crises.
- Food aid cannot be "one size fits all." There should be flexibility to deliver aid in-kind, in the form of direct financial assistance, or through the use of local and regional commodity purchases.
- Requiring food aid to be transported from the United States on U.S.-flagged vessels creates inefficiencies by adding extra time and cost. Past analyses of aid deliveries show local purchases can arrive up to 60 percent faster than those shipped from the U.S., and in some cases cost less.