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Q and A: Save the Children on Farm Bill's Food for Peace

By William Lambers on January 6, 2014
© Examiner

When Congress gets back to work this month they need to finish the Farm Bill. A vital part of this legislation is the Food for Peace program, the largest source of funding for international food aid.

The UN World Food Programme, for example, depends on Food for Peace donations for many of its relief operations. It's critical Food for Peace receive as much funding as possible, especially with hunger emergencies from the war in Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Afghanistan and other areas.

In the following Q and A, David Kauck of Save the Children discusses what would be a good policy on the Farm Bill regarding Food for Peace. Kauck is Save the Children's Associate Vice President for Hunger and Livelihoods.

How does Save the Children feel about funding for the Food for Peace program?

Save the Children is strongly supportive of the Food for Peace program, which provides food aid to vulnerable children and families in the poorest countries in times of humanitarian crises or to tackle chronic hunger. However, we also acknowledge that the cost-effectiveness of these programs could be significantly improved with a few reforms (see our response to Question 2).

What would be a good plan for Food for Peace in 2014 on the Farm Bill?

For several years, Save the Children’s has advocated for common sense changes to U.S. food aid or the Food for Peace program. These changes would include eliminating restrictions on the use of local and regional food procurement; repealing inefficient shipping requirements; and scaling down food aid monetization over a period of time, accompanied by an equivalent increase in development assistance.

Support from the White House coupled with U.S. budget constraints posed by sequestration last year is causing bipartisan support for reform to grow. Early research shows that the reforms could provide considerable cost savings resulting in more aid to more children, greater flexibility to use the most appropriate approach available to assist people in need, and faster humanitarian response times. The cost-savings generated from reforms, when reinvested back into food aid, will provide food for an additional 2-4 million children and adults. The bottom line: food aid reform is good for kids.

What would be a good figure for the new Farm Bill?

We have copied and pasted below an excerpt from our FY 2014 appropriations priorities document, which details what we have asked for Food for Peace.

Food for Peace, P.L. 480 - Fund at $1.466 billion, including $35 million to reduce monetization - consistent with the FY14 Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill. The Food for the Peace (FFP) program is the primary vehicle providing U.S. emergency food aid and multiyear food security assistance to millions of children and families every year. These programs play a vital role in preventing famines, reversing acute and chronic child malnutrition, addressing displacement by conflict or natural disaster, and enabling vulnerable populations to build resilience against future shocks. Given the current high demand posed by Syria, Philippines and other crisis areas, we urge Congress to avoid any cuts to FFP whatsoever. We also urge Congress to support the Senate funding of $35 million within the overall Title II funding to reduce the need to monetize commodities to fund programs, which would increase chronic hunger program efficiency by 30 percent and result in reaching 800,000 more children in need.

And combined with the recommended efficiency improvement (allowing local purchase, some of which they did in Typhoon Haiyan relief) would make the money go even further?

Using cash transfers or buying food regionally or locally would drastically reduce the time and costs of transportation, shipping and handling and would result in up to $165 million in cost savings. The cost savings could be reinvested back into food aid, providing food to an additional 2-4 million children and families each year, at no extra cost. In addition, the food could be delivered three months faster than it takes today. Getting food to severely malnourished children more quickly is critical when they are on the brink of death.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) would also have greater resources available to secure and deliver more nutritious products. For example, USAID may include more ready-to-eat Plumpy Nut packets, which are filled with a nutrient-rich peanut paste that gives undernourished children a healthy boost. Indeed, reforms could create even more incentives for U.S. companies to produce more nutritious kinds of food aid.

Visit the Bread for the World advocacy action center for the Farm Bill.

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