Food Aid Reform

Its really funny that every week when I go to write my blog post, the topic Marion Nestle has covered  has something to do with our current topic. Did she steal your syllabus? This time the topic is food aid (http://www.foodpolitics.com/2013/04/food-aid-reform-is-up-against-intense-lobbying/) specifically reform of it. She describes the way food aid works like this:

“Since 1954, our system for donating food for emergencies and aid has worked like this:

The government buys U.S. farm commodities.
It requires at least 75% of these commodities to be transported on U.S. ships.
The commodities are given to governments for emergency relief, or
They are given to American charitable organizations to sell so the groups can use the money to finance development projects (this is called “monetization”).”

Doesn’t that sound kind of messed up? I mean, we are supposed to be helping other people here, not just ourselves. But instead this system guarantees that when other nations need our help, our farmers, shippers, government and charities are all benefited as well, perhaps even more than the people meant to be receiving the aid in the first place. This is not only self-serving, but also damages local agricultural and food systems. Nestle mentions that other countries buy food internationally (aka not from their own farmers) so it doesn’t have to be shipped long distances. That makes sense, given that food shipped halfway around the world is not only going to be a lot less fresh, but also it will take a lot more time to get where its going. She describes this method of providing aid as “inefficient and unnecessarily expensive”, and I totally agree. Other people have seen this too, including the Obama administration which plans some reforms:

“The Agency for International Development (USAID) wants the U.S. to:

  • Buy food in local countries (although 55% would still go to U.S. farmers)
  • End “monetization” to U.S. charitable organizations.”\

And of course, this perfectly sensible plan is already being met with lobbying from all of the aforementioned groups that benefit from our current system of aid. Suprise.

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