By Charlene Porter
Department of State
Washington – The United States ships thousands of tons of food aid to scores of countries around the world beset by floods, droughts, monsoons and other disasters to prevent people from going hungry, but the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) asked how it could do even more good.
A new study conducted over a two-year period by experts at Tufts University in Massachusetts at the request of USAID says these commodities should be modified to improve their nutritional content. For some of the recipients, better nutrient-enriched foods could make a lifelong difference in health and well-being.
The report says that U.S. food aid overseas makes “remarkable impacts under the most challenging of circumstances imaginable,” but there is room for improvement in both the way assistance is targeted and coordinated, and in how it is formulated.
The report recommends that food aid, which is already fortified with some vitamins, be supplemented with a dairy source of protein when consumed by children under 2, pregnant women, weakened children, and the ill. Further, the report says vitamin and mineral mixes currently used in fortifying foods should be upgraded, the range of products shipped as food aid should be broader, and the delivery of foods to meet a population’s nutritional needs should improve.
The recommendations are in line with recent recognition that good nutrition is most critical for long-term development in the first 1,000 days of life, including in utero.
“Implementing these proposals will help children learn better, grow stronger and achieve their full potential,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said. “Optimizing our food aid programs, combined with our Feed the Future initiative, can help us build toward the goal of ending hunger in a generation.”
Feed the Future is an initiative to achieve global food security that emerged from a meeting of the Group of 8 nations in 2009.
“We will increase our investment in nutrition and agriculture development while maintaining our support for humanitarian food assistance,” according to a U.S. statement of commitment ( http://www.usaid.gov/gt/docs/ftf_at_a_glance.pdf ) (PDF, 128KB) to that campaign.
According to a USAID press release on the report, the International Food Aid and Development Conference in June will serve as a forum for further discussions about ideas to enhance the nutritional quality of food aid.
USAID is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make improvements in the nutritional level and delivery of food aid.
The Tufts University report (PDF, 1.7MB) is available at USAID’s website.
USAID Press Release April 26, 2011 – Report Identifies Ways for US Government to Enhance Quality of Food Aid