Food Aid or Food Assistance

The United Nations formed the World Food Program (WFP) in 1961 to allocate foreign food aid to those suffering from famine or other disasters (man-made or natural). The program originally provided aid by sending staple foods directly to the region in need. This use of aid quickly undercuts local markets. And while it does feed people, many are still left malnourished.There is a need to take a closer look.

Flooding a region with free commodities can drive local producers out of business and cause more long term damage than short term good. There is not much use in feeding a village if the aid given puts all the farmers in that village out of work. The risk of disrupting markets caused a change in the way aid is distributed. Recent research from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) shows that vouchers for food can be more efficient and healthier than traditional foreign aid. Almost 40% of foreign aid in the form of food was wasted. Conversely, cash benefits and food vouchers provided 83% and 99% of the intended food, respectively, directly to the consumer. On top of that, food aid is four times as expensive to use when increasing calorie intake. The only downfall from vouchers and cash is when disaster strikes there may not be local markets ready to provide food. There must be a balance. The WFP now provides to 4.4 million people by means of vouchers or cash for food. There are roughly 90 million people in 80 countries that receive aid. More could be done to provide vouchers and cash. This new “food assistance” approach allows for local markets to stay afloat and provide better nutrition to those benefiting from the program. The ability to efficiently provide aid to countries and regions in need is important. Preventing starvation needs more than dumping food in the region to solve such a complex problem.


Here is a view of just how hungry the world is: HungerMap

About Jared Soares

Hello, my name is Jared Soares. I am pursuing a degree in economics with minors in mathematics and computer science. Outside of school I enjoy hiking, rock climbing, cooking and performing with the improv comedy troupe Ubiquitous They.

3 Replies to “Food Aid or Food Assistance”

  1. Nicely done, definitely a worthwhile issue to look at. Just to add to your point, most of the countries receiving food aid simply don’t have the same level of food preservation methods (think refrigeration etc.), leading to the huge waste of food that you mentioned. I actually did an article last year on how in the developed world most food is wasted by consumers, whereas in underdeveloped countries consumers tend to be very efficient in consuming food, but simply don’t have the means of preserving it for very long.

    • That is a great point. I did a little browsing and found this group Southern Innovator that has the mission of finding efficient ways to provide energy and technology to poor countries. This link in particular discusses refrigeration in India and new refrigerators that are able to be powered with half the amount electricity as conventional refrigerators. It is interesting to see the innovations that come out to battle global poverty. If only there were more groups looking to do the same.

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